Drowsy Driving

DRUNK or DROWSY?

Study finds many police officers mistake tired drivers for drunk drivers

Washington, DC — Nearly nine out of every ten police officers responding to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Internet survey reported they had stopped a driver who they believed was drunk, but turned out to be drowsy. The survey was coordinated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has provided some estimates on the scope of the drowsy driving problem in the past. According to NHTSA data, up to 100,000 police-reported crashes annually involve drowsiness or fatigue as a principal causal factor . That accounts for 1.5 percent of all crashes. At least 71,000 people are injured in fall-asleep crashes each year and a conservative estimate of annual related fatalities is 1,500. NHTSA estimates the monetary losses each year as result of these crashes represent $12.5 billion. Mounting evidence suggests the numbers are much higher and new estimates are expected.

Additional survey responses revealed:

  • 89 percent of police officers agreed that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving,
  • 93 percent of police officers believed drowsy driving is a serious problem,
  • 93 percent agreed that drowsy driving is a serious problem for passenger car drivers,
  • 97 percent agreed that drowsy driving is a serious problem for commercial drivers,
  • 95 percent agreed that drivers who cause a crash because they are fatigued should be charged with a driving violation, and
  • 96 percent agreed that more education is needed to inform drivers about the dangers of drowsy driving.

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