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Car accidents are on the rise and while distracted and inebriated driving cause a number of those accidents, a recent study revealed that lack of sleep is a big contributor as well. According to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, tired drivers accounted for more than one in 10 car accidents from 2010 until 2013. The study concluded that driving without adequate sleep made drivers three times as likely to get into a car wreck.

Tired drivers have slower reaction times. In addition to potentially closing their eyes in traffic, tired drivers have also been shown to exhibit poor judgment, equivalent to that of inebriated drivers.

“While official statistics from the U.S. government indicate that only approximately 1%–2% of all motor vehicle crashes involve drowsy driving, many studies suggest that the true scope of the problem is likely to be much greater,” concluded the researchers.

Of the car accidents caused by tired drivers, more than 30 percent were considered severe or moderately severe, including rollovers, personal injuries, substantial property damage, airbags, or drastic changes in speed.

Tired drivers ranged from 16 to over 75 years old; however, 16 to 24 year olds edged out drivers over the age of 65 in number of tired drivers that caused an accident. Together, those under 24 accounted for more than 30 percent of all accidents in the study. Those over 65 accounted for 25 percent of all accidents.

Heavy traffic appeared to be contributing factor to car accidents caused by tired drivers. Although most accidents occurred during daylight hours, according to study findings, tired drivers struggled most at night.

“Also of note, more than half of all crashes that involved drowsiness occurred in darkness,” stated the research brief.

driving during thanksgiving safety tipsMore than 3,500 drivers from across the country volunteered to be in the study undertaken as a part of the federally funded Second Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study.

Researchers installed in-vehicle cameras to monitor drivers’ behavior.

Researchers noted when tired drivers’ eyes were closed in the minutes preceding a car accident.

The study concluded that the much higher rates of tired drivers contributing to accidents is only the “tip of the iceberg.”

“Unlike impairment by substances such as alcohol, there is no test analogous to a breathalyzer that the police can administer at the roadside to assess a driver’s level of drowsiness at or shortly after the time of a crash,” notes the research brief issued by AAA.

“Moreover, a driver who was drowsy before a crash may appear fully alert afterward and may be reluctant to volunteer to the police that he or she was drowsy. In the case of a driver who was not actually asleep at the time of the crash but was operating at a reduced level of alertness, the driver may not even recognize that he or she was drowsy nor that drowsiness may have contributed to the crash.”

The researchers recommend additional studies on the problem of tired drivers, pointing out that police reports are not enough to fully gauge the problem.

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident caused by a tired driver, contact the attorneys at McDonald Worley to help evaluate your claim.