Every year, thousands of motorists are killed in accidents across the country. Many of these accidents are caused by impaired or distracted driving. Most people recognize the dangers of drinking and driving due to government enforcement programs, as well as public awareness campaigns. More recently, awareness of the dangers of texting and using smart phones while driving has been on the rise. However, there is one type of impaired driving that many people have probably participated in that they may not even be aware of, and that is driving while sleep deprived.
The hidden danger of drowsy driving
A new report estimates that approximately 83.6 million people in the U.S are sleep deprived on a daily basis. That is a sobering figure. Accidents caused by sleep deprived motorists are numerous, and the cost due to death, injuries and property damage are in the billions. Deaths from motor vehicle accidents have increased and some point to this issue as being the problem.
Who is at risk of driving while drowsy
There appear to be certain segments of society that are more at risk for driving while fatigued. Young adults and teenagers are the largest group at risk. It’s estimated that they may be responsible for almost half of the accidents caused by driving while drowsy. People who work long night shifts are also at risk. This group is often chronically fatigued. A much smaller segment are people who suffer from sleep disorders.
Steps taken in Florida
Unfortunately, drowsy driving is a largely hidden problem in most states. Law enforcement doesn’t quite know how to deal with sleepy drivers. Most drivers who cause accidents due to fatigue hesitate to admit they were tired for fear of retaliation from insurance companies. However, Florida now requires its law enforcement to learn about the issue during its crash investigation training. Florida also recognizes the first week of September as Drowsy Driving Week. This started in 2010 as part of the You Snooze, You Lose campaign that stemmed from the Ronshay Dugan Act, named after an eight-year-old girl who died in an accident caused by a drowsy driver.
The Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) website also offers information on drowsy driving and links to various resources aimed at prevention.