5 THINGS TO KNOW: The dangers of driving when drowsy

Mar. 8—AAA Oklahoma spokesperson Rylie Fletcher gives information regarding the danger of drowsy driving.

1 Is drowsy driving proving to be more dangerous than previously thought?

Driving while battling the urge to fall asleep is a familiar feeling for many. However, soon-to-be-published research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals the shocking lethality of drowsy driving. And with Daylight Saving Time approaching, Sunday, March 10 at 2 a.m., the darker mornings and lost hour of sleep will lead to more drowsy drivers. Previous Foundation research points directly to sleep loss as a key culprit in drowsy driving crashes.

2 What do new study results show?

—18% of all traffic fatalities between 2017 and 2021 were estimated to involve a drowsy driver, accounting for nearly 30,000 deaths nationwide.

—6,275 estimated lives were claimed by drowsy drivers in 2021 alone.

3 Have dangers of drowsy driving been underestimated?

These figures are far higher than official government statistics, highlighting the underreported nature of drowsy driving crashes. According to NHTSA, there is agreement across the traffic safety, sleep science, and public health communities that the impact of drowsy driving is underestimated.

The AAA Foundation's study, based on in-depth crash investigations and national fatal crash data, estimates that drowsy driving is a factor in roughly ten times as many traffic fatalities as traditional crash data indicates.

4 What are perceptions among drivers regarding drowsy driving?

In its most recent Traffic Safety Culture Index, the AAA Foundation noted drivers predominately perceive drowsy driving to be dangerous (95%), however 18% of drivers admit to having engaged in the behavior in the past 30 days.

5 Is drowsy driving especially dangerous as Daylight Savings Time changes, beginning Sunday, March 10, at 2 a.m.?

When the time changes, sleep cycles are interrupted and drivers can be more tired than they realize. Losing one hour of sleep takes an adjustment, and drivers need to prepare by getting more rest, especially on Sunday.

—James Beaty