The findings of a recent AAA study indicate drowsiness is a contributing factor in more auto accidents than federal estimates suggest.

Shift work, an untreated sleep disorder, a new baby at home, an on-the-go lifestyle or any other number of factors may contribute to drowsiness or fatigue for people in Connecticut and elsewhere. While many think of this feeling of being overly tired simply as an indication they need more rest, for drivers, it may create a significant risk for motor vehicle collisions. In fact, a recent study estimates that drowsiness is a contributing factor in 9.5 percent of all auto accidents.

Why is drowsy driving dangerous?

Being overly tired may seem more like an inconvenience than a driving hazard, but getting behind the wheel while drowsy may pose risks akin to those experienced by drunk drivers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that drowsiness may impair people's decision-making and judgment, delay their reaction time or limit their attentiveness. Consequently, they may not spot or adjust to changes in the driving conditions or other road hazards in time to avoid a collision.

Assessing the prevalence of drowsiness as an accident factor

Researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety performed a study to better understand the occurrence of drowsiness in drivers who are involved in auto accidents. To this end, they conducted a large-scale study, using in-vehicle cameras and other equipment to continuously monitor 3,593 drivers. The participants, who were followed for several months, were recruited at various times from different sites across the U.S. between October of 2010 and December of 2013.

To assess drowsiness in their data collection, the researchers employed the PERCLOS measure. Based on the percentage of time a person has his or her eyes closed over a given time measurement, this method helps predict lapses in attention, drowsiness and increased lane position variability.

Drowsiness commonly contributes to crashes

Over the course of the study, the researchers tracked 905 minor, moderate and severe collisions. Adjusting for factors, including being unable to see the driver's eyes before the crash, the study coded PERCLOS for a total of 701 accidents. Based on the analysis of the data collected, 9.5 percent of the drivers in these wrecks were classified as drowsy by the researchers.

The researchers noted their findings put the prevalence of drowsiness-involved collisions significantly higher than the federal estimates. These suggest drowsy drivers contribute to between one and two percent of all wrecks.

Working with a lawyer

When people in Connecticut are involved in drowsy driving accidents, they may suffer significant injuries that require extensive medical treatment, as well as time off work to recover. For many, this leads to mounting medical bills, lost income and other damages. Depending on the circumstances, however, the fatigued motorists may be held liable for these, and other resulting losses. Therefore, those who have experienced such situations may benefit from discussing their rights and options with a legal representative.