If you commute long hours, or must drive after a long day at school or work, fatigue may be an important factor in the likelihood that you become involved in a car accident. A 100-car naturalistic driving study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has shown that fatigue is a cause of 20 percent of crashes. This is just one more important reason to have an auto insurance Pennsylvania policy in force at all times; accidents can occur at anytime.
Of course, you can prevent accidents by getting more sleep. Having another cup of coffee before you get behind the wheel of a car might also help. It could save your life. Drivers 18 to 20 years old account for significantly more fatigue-related crashes than any other age group because their sleep patterns shift to later hours. Since the school day still tends to start early, this results in daytime sleepiness.
Older drivers can face similar issues with late nights and early work times, but have more experience coping with moderate fatigue, although this is not always the case. The study also found significantly more crashes, and near crashes due to fatigue during the day than at night.
“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.”
One hundred drivers were initially recruited as primary drivers to have their vehicles instrumented or receive a leased vehicle instrumented for the study. Since other family members and friends would occasionally drive the instrumented vehicles, data were collected on 132 additional drivers.
Researchers viewed more than 110,000 events, specifically:
- 82 crashes, including 13 where the data was incomplete
- 761 near crashes
- 8,295 incidents, such as braking hard for slowing or stopped traffic; and
- 1,423 non-conflict events, such as running a stop light with no traffic present
In addition, 20,000 randomly selected 6-second segments of video were viewed. Incidents of moderate to severe driver fatigue were noted, providing an estimate of the amount of time drivers were fatigued but were not involved in a crash or near crash. The total number of subjects who were involved in fatigue-related crashes and near-crashes was 38, with 11 drivers accounting for 58 percent of all the fatigue-related crashes and near-crashes.
With results suggesting that drivers are at a four times greater risk of a crash or near-crash if they choose to drive while tired, you should, when you recognize that you are tired or not at full capacity, opt not to drive, or get some rest prior to doing so. Also make sure you keep your auto insurance policy current and up to date.