Drowsy, Distracted Drivers Cause 80% of Crashes

The Washington Post reports that a new federal study in the Washington D.C. area has found that nearly 80% of crashes involved people who were distracted or drowsy within seconds of impact. This study concluded that the government’s previous estimates of crashes caused by inattentive drivers were wrong by more than three times.

The Study was a joint project between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. As part of the Study, about 100 vehicles were equipped with cameras and sensors for a year which provided approximately 43,000 hours of data on what people are doing in the moments before a crash.

Each car in the study was outfitted with five cameras trained on the drivers and the road. Additionally, sensors were placed to monitor whether the car swerved or whether the driver was using a wireless device. Jacqueline Glassman, acting administrator of NHTSA states: “This is a wake-up call to Americans to pay attention.”

The data from the Study included 241 drivers who had been involved in 82 crashes. A crash was defined as any contact between the test vehicle and another object. The Study also revealed 761 near crashes and 8,295 incidents that required evasive maneuvers.

Thomas Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech center stated that “the more surprising findings were related to fatigue. About 20% of the crashes were caused by drowsiness, a rate that probably outpaces that of long-haul truckers.”

The Study also found that drivers ages 18-20 experienced crashes or near crashes at a rate nearly four times higher than drivers over 35 years old. However, for all ages, cell phones were by far the most common distraction. The most hazardous distraction was when drivers attempted to reach for moving objects, like a sliding purse. In these instances, the crash or near crash rate increased by a factor of nine.

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