Many drivers are aware of the risks of drinking and driving. Distracted driving, including distractions by cell phones, has also risen in public awareness in recent years. Teens and young adults are frequently taught about the dangers of both drunk and distracted driving, and parents often make sure to provide additional warnings as their children go to college.
Drowsy Driving Dangers
However, both parents and their young drivers often miss one of the most dangerous forms of driving: driving while drowsy.
Drowsy driving causes about 300,000 car accidents each year, some of which are fatal. Nonetheless, many young drivers think that driving while sleepy or fatigued is completely normal.
In a study by the University of Washington, researchers interviewed college students about their own driving habits and their perception of dangerous driving behaviors. The majority of the students in the study rated themselves “safe” drivers, and most students labeled both drunk driving and distracted driving as dangerous.
Drowsy driving, however, was another story. In the University of Washington study, many students admitted to driving while fatigued, and several reported that they had been in an accident in which drowsy driving was a factor.
A second study found that 70 percent of participants had driven while drowsy in their lives; 40 percent had done so in the previous 12 months, and 30 percent had done so in the previous 30 days.
Currently, only New Jersey and Arkansas have specific laws that penalize drowsy driving. However, proving that a driver was breaking this law can be difficult. Unlike drunk driving, drowsy driving has no chemical tests that can be performed to establish whether or not the person was too sleepy to operate a motor vehicle safely. Instead, other factors must be used to show that drowsy driving led to the crash.
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