Drowsy driving among distracted driving dangers

Distracted driving

The simulator uses a 180-degree screen to project a variety of driving scenarios, including urban and highway environments

Experts say distracted driving is reaching epidemic levels. In Virginia last year, 208 of the 842 fatalities on Virginia roads were due to distracted driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that approximately 660,000 U.S. residents are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. Recent surveys have shown that drivers know it’s dangerous but do it anyway.

To raise awareness about this issue, Gov. Ralph S. Northam has proclaimed April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

While distracted driving is a problem, drowsy driving has become just as dangerous.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes for Health to learn more about drowsy driving and to help reduce related deaths and injuries.

NHTSA estimated drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths in 2013. However, these numbers are underestimated, and up to 6,000 fatal crashes every year may be due to drowsy drivers.

“I’ve seen some serious accidents where the cause was that someone fell asleep behind the wheel,” explained Kevin Bartal, safety coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau. “Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as distracted driving. It’s important for drivers to be well rested and stop for breaks if they feel tired.”

Drivers who do not get enough sleep or commercial drivers operating tractor trailers, tow trucks and buses are the most likely to drive drowsy. Shift workers who work long shifts or at night, as well as those who take medication that causes drowsiness, may also be at risk.

If a driver begins to yawn, blink frequently, has difficulty remembering the past few miles, misses an exit, drifts from a lane or hits the rumble strip on the side of the road—those are signs a driver should stop and rest.

Find out more at nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drowsy-driving or drowsydriving.org.