According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are approximately 83,000 accidents every year related to driver fatigue. This annual average includes an estimated 886 fatal crashes, 37,000 injury crashes, and 45,000 property damage only crashes. NHTSA recognizes that these numbers are conservative estimates due to the fact that drowsy driving can only be self-reported and not measured like intoxication. Also, drowsiness is not reported when it is caused by other factors such as excessive alcohol consumption or taking medication. Although driver fatigue can cause an accident at any time during the day or night, NHTSA estimates that forty-eight percent of drowsy-driving related accidents occur between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. The majority of these accidents involve a single vehicle, with no passengers other than the driver, running off the road at a high rate of speed with no evidence of braking. Accidents related to driver fatigue also frequently occur on rural roads and highways.
Several manufacturers, including Audi, Mercedes, and Volvo, currently offer advanced drowsiness detection systems which monitor the driver’s behaviors and vehicle movements and alert the driver to pull over if drowsiness is detected. For example, Mercedes’s Attention Assist technology monitors a driver’s behaviors for the first twenty minutes of driving to formulate a baseline of driving behaviors and then checks those behaviors against vehicle movements such as steering wheel angle and lane deviation as well as external factors such as pothole avoidance and wind gusts. If drowsiness is detected, the driver is alerted to the nearest rest stop. Several European companies are currently developing more sophisticated technology which will monitor head and eye movements, body posture, heart rate, and body temperature to detect drowsiness. However, until vehicles are fully autonomous, NHTSA cautions that drowsiness is something everyone needs to worry about.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, contact an experienced attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.