In 2018, the number of Colorado auto accidents involving drowsy driving was 30 percent greater than in 2017.

Thousands Injured or Killed Because Somebody Nodded Off

Too many crashes are happening because too many people are driving while drowsy, and Colorado is one of the states where the problem is most severe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep, less than the seven hours of sleep per night that most people need. Being sleep-deprived can impair your driving as well as your health. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), thousands of crashes on the road are attributable to a drowsy driver. NHTSA reports that drowsy driving was involved in 91,000 vehicle crashes in 2017, and between 2013 and 2017, sleepiness at the wheel was implicated in the deaths of more than 4,100 people.

Although official government statistics suggest that no more than 2 percent of all accidents are related to a sleepy driver, research by the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows that the number is much higher. By monitoring 3,500 drivers over several months, AAA found that between 8 percent and 10 percent of all crashes were caused by the fact that someone was driving while drowsy.

Colorado is one of the states where the problem is greatest (along with Wyoming and Maine). In early November, during National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, Denver-based KCNC-TV reported that in 2018 the number Colorado auto accidents involving drowsy driving was 30 percent greater than in 2017. Fewer people were killed in 2018 than in 2017 — 15 in 2018, 21 in 2017. But injuries increased. In 2017, 677 injuries were reported; in 2018, 900 injuries.

Tech to Detect Drowsy Driving

Ninety-six percent of those surveyed by the AAA agree that driving while sleepy is dangerous, yet nearly 30 percent of drivers admit to doing it anyway.

That’s not necessarily willfulness. Drowsiness is a kind of affliction that can creep up on you. Drivers may not even realize what is happening or that their sleepiness is putting themselves and others at risk. Persons who are working a late shift, who are suffering from sleep disorders, or who are taking certain medications or sleep aids can all find themselves suddenly somnolent.

Automated help may be on the way. Through a startup called Vastra, Purdue University students are developing technology to help keep people from driving when they’re not quite awake. TriSense is a fabric steering wheel cover that uses hardware and software to monitor the driver and to sound alarms when electrocardiogram data suggests that the driver is becoming less alert. The product is not yet on the market.

If you find yourself driving drowsy, pull over to a safe location and get some rest or call for a ride. Whether you realize it or not, driving when sleepy can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving.

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