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Why aren't drowsy driving statistics better?

It seems like we have statistics for every kind of accident. For instance, it's easy to find out how many accidents are annually caused by drunk drivers.

The same is not true for drowsy drivers. We know it's a problem, and there are estimates. Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 1,550 people pass away every year in these accidents, while 71,000 people are hurt. But these are just estimates. Why are solid statistics so hard to come by? Below are a few reasons:

  1. You can't test for it. A breath test can tell you if a driver is drunk, but the same isn't true for tired drivers.
  2. The reporting at the state level tends to be unreliable and inconsistent, with different codes and methods.
  3. It's also unreliable to turn to self-reporting. Drivers may lie to avoid being at fault or may not realize they were so tired.
  4. Other factors may also contribute. For example, if a drunk driver falls asleep at 2 a.m., that's reported as a DUI crash, though fatigue was definitely part of it.

It is worth noting that the National Sleep Foundation has studied the statistics from countries like England, Australia and Finland. The NSF says that they do a better job than the United States, and their data puts drowsy driving in anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the annual car accidents. It's unclear how well this translates to the U.S., but it may be similar.

Have you been injured in an accident with a driver who fell asleep at the wheel? Be sure you know what steps to take to seek financial compensation.

Source: National Sleep Foundation, "Facts and Stats," accessed Oct. 06, 2017

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