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Young drivers more likely to drive fatigued PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, November 14, 2013 9:24 PM

BY STEPHANIE GROVES

Staff Writer

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DELPHOS — People will spend much more time driving in the dark this time of year, which leads to more fatigue and tired eyes behind the wheel. The behavior of driving drowsy or fatigued continues to be a significant threat to people traveling the road. Many people underestimate the problem and many overestimate their abilities to compensate for driving while extremely tired.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has released their 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index survey which shows that 33 percent of young drivers, ages 19-24, were the most likely to admit to driving fatigued. Drivers who are 75 and older and the youngest drivers, ages 16-18, were the least likely to report having driven drowsy. Of all the participants surveyed, close to 22 percent said they had done so in the past month.

The survey indicates fatigued driving remains a prevalent problem, despite the overall disapproval among all drivers. Of the 2,325 respondents — licensed drivers age 16 and older — close to 95 percent believe it is unacceptable for someone to drive when they have trouble keeping their eyes open. Almost 83 percent believe fatigued drivers pose a threat to their personal safety. Conversely, more than 28 percent of them have driven when they were so tired they struggled to keep their eyes open.

Delphos Police Chief Kyle Fittro said since becoming a police officer, there may have been few crashes contributed to drowsy driving.

“Fall asleep/drowsy driving crashes are not tracked and there has been nothing statistically significant,” Fittro stated. “Usually a driver is not paying attention or the crash can be attributed to drugs or drinking.”

So far in 2013, the Ohio Department Of Public Safety Crash Statistics reports the Tri-county area — Allen, Putnam and Van Wert — has tallied 29 crashes reporting the condition of the driver as Fell Asleep, Fainted or Fatigued and of those, there were 17 injuries and 12 with property damages.

During 2013, the state of Ohio has seen 1,788 crashes reporting the condition of the driver as Fell asleep, Fainted or Fatigued and of those, there were six fatalities, 859 injuries and 923 with property damages.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that of the 100,000 police-reported crashes each year due to driver fatigue, there are an estimated 1,550 fatalities, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

The figures are thought to be conservative since there is no test to determine fatigue, state reporting practices are inconsistent and there is little or no police training in identifying the contributing factors of fatigue as a crash factor. Currently, each state addresses fatigue in some way in their crash report forms, however, the codes are inconsistent and two states — Missouri and Wisconsin — do not have specific codes for fatigue and/or fell asleep.

Fittro reported there is a section on the OH-1 Unit Motorists/Non-Motorists/Occupant Page (HSY 8306) of the police report where seven different driver conditions can be noted and includes: apparently normal; physical impairment; emotional (depressed, angry, disturbed); illness; fell asleep, fainted, fatigued; under the influence of medications, alcohol, drugs; other; and unknown.

Sleep deprivation and fatigue make lapses of attention more likely to occur and may play a role in behavior that can lead to crashes attributed to other causes. Warning signs indicating drowsiness while driving include:

• The inability to recall the last few miles traveled;

• Having disconnected or wandering thoughts;

• Having difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open;

• Feeling as though your head is very heavy;

• Drifting out of your driving lane or driving on the rumble strips;

• Yawning repeatedly;

• Accidentally tailgating other vehicles; and

• Missing traffic signs.

The National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) has pinpointed specific at-risk groups who are more likely to drive drowsy and includes young males under 26 years old, shift workers, commercial drivers and people with untreated sleep disorders or with short-term or chronic sleep deprivation.

The NSF reports that if a person is awake for 18 hours, it is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk for a crash.

Any driver can experience heavy eyes, swerving and other effects of driving drowsy. Drivers can help themselves stay alert and avoid fall-asleep crashes if they: get at least seven hours of sleep the night before a long trip; stop driving if they become sleepy; travel at times when they are normally awake and stay overnight along the way, if needed; schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles; drink a caffeinated beverage; and travel with an awake passenger.

 

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