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Fatigued drivers much more prevalent than previously thought

A study form the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has found that fatigue is a much greater cause of motor vehicle accidents. The naturalistic study of 100-cars and their drivers concluded that fatigue was present almost ten times more that previously reported, or in 20 percent of all car crashes. The naturalistic study was conducted observing real drivers on ordinary streets and highways. The cars were equipped with sensors and cameras that allowed researchers to later observe drivers in a real driving environment.

What they found was not encouraging. Researchers were surprised at the amount of drowsy and fatigued drivers discovered during the daytime who were involved in car accidents. Charlie Klaue, from the Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety, said, "We found significantly more crashes/near crashes due to fatigue during the day than at night."

Because of the detail of the data, researchers were able to watch driver behavior immediately prior to a crash. They could see drivers closing their eyes, their heads bobbing and micro-sleep. Klaue commented that this was "not just yawning. The drivers were asleep."

Also surprising was the fact that young drivers had a significant number of fatigue-related car crashes. This was attributed to their sleep habits of going to bed late and having to attend school early in the day. Other drivers also demonstrated this behavior.

The researcher noted that a fatigued driver is four-times more likely to have a crash. It also means that if you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, in addition to considering the other drivers cell phone use, their sleep habits and fatigue level should be examined when reviewing the causes of the crash.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Driver Fatigue Causes 20% of Auto Crashes: Study," Susan Trulove, April 15, 2013

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