Driver Fatigue Causes 20% of Auto Crashes: Study
By Susan Trulove | April 15, 2013
A 100-car “naturalistic” driving study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says that fatigue is a cause of 20 percent of car crashes, rather than the two or three percent previously estimated based on surveys, simulator studies and test tracks.
Also, the study found, 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 still tends to start early, resulting in daytime sleepiness. A driver at any age can also be fatigued.
“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 Klauer. “This was not just yawning. The drivers were asleep.”
Applying the findings to the population at-large, these results suggest that drivers are at a four times greater risk of a crash or near-crash if they choose to drive while fatigued,” said Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. “That suggests that about 12 percent of all crashes and near-crashes in the population are attributable to fatigue.”