Feeling fatigued? Pour yourself another cup of coffee and think twice before you get behind the wheel. A new study from the Virginia Tech Transportation reveals that 20 percent of car crashes are caused by fatigue, with young drivers particularly vulnerable to driving while fatigued.
Previous estimates attributed fatigue to only 2 or 3 percent of crashes.
“The study allowed us, for the first time, to observe driver behavior just prior to a crash. In 20 percent of all crashes and 16 percent of all near crashes, the driver was showing fatigue. We saw eye-lid closure, head bobbing, severe loss of facial musculature, micro-sleep – which is when your eyes drift shut and then pop up,” said Charlie Klauer, group leader for teen risk and injury prevention at the transportation institute’s Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety. “This was not just yawning. The drivers were asleep.”
The study also revealed that 18- to 20-year-olds account for significantly more fatigue-related crashes than any other age group. Adolescents’ sleep patterns shift to later hours; however, the school day starts early, resulting in daytime sleepiness. Older drivers can face similar issues with late nights and early work times, but often have more experience coping with moderate fatigue.
“A finding that surprised people is the prevalence of fatigue during the day,” added Klauer. “We found significantly more crashes/near crashes due to fatigue during the day than at night.”
Wake Up and Drive: Fatigue Causes 20 Percent of Crashes