New AAA study gauges fatigue in car crashes

With over a third of adults in America sleeping less than seven hours a day, fatigued driving is all too common. Drivers in Ohio may think that fatigue is not as deadly as distraction or alcohol, and they would be right. However, it's more dangerous than some statistics will lead them to believe.

According to U.S. government statistics, drowsiness is the factor in 1 to 2 percent of all crashes. A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety claims that the number may be higher. After monitoring over 3,500 drivers across America and studying their crash data over a four-year period, researchers found that 8.8 to 9.5 percent of the accidents were caused by drowsiness. Sleepiness was the factor in 10.6 to 10.8 percent of those crashes that led to airbag deployment, injuries and property damage.

Drowsiness is hard to detect as drivers themselves may be unaware that they are tired or may hide the fact from officers. This driver ignorance or omission may influence the police reports, post-crash investigations and resulting statistics that take both into account. The AAA study has a strong claim to greater accuracy since researchers used in-vehicle cameras and measured drowsiness through the length of time drivers closed their eyes. This is known as the PERCLOS alertness measurement, and this study is allegedly the first to utilize it.

Without camera footage or other hard proof, it's nearly impossible to show that a person's car accident injuries were caused by a drowsy driver. Still, victims of such crashes can file a claim against the driver for negligence. A lawyer could evaluate the claim, hire accident investigators to assist in the process, estimate a settlement and then negotiate for it. If the auto insurance company proposes a lower settlement or denies payment altogether, the victim can litigate with an attorney's help.

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