by Sean Kilcarr
We’ve heard time and again that “drowsy driving” poses a major safety threat to the motoring public. But how big is this threat, really? Well, a report compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this year tried to answer that question by analyzing data from a set of questions about insufficient sleep administered through its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which the agency uses to poll “noninstitutionalized adults.”
According to the analysis, some 4.2% reported falling asleep while driving at least one time during the previous 30 days—something that occurred more commonly among adults who reported sleeping six or fewer hours per night or who said they snored or “unintentionally” fell asleep during the day.
That’s got a lot of folks worried. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 2.5% of fatal motor vehicle crashes (about 730 in 2009) and 2% of all crashes with nonfatal injuries (about 30,000 in 2009) involved drowsy driving.
CDC’s research also indicated men were more likely to report drowsy driving than women (5.3% versus 3.2%) and that drowsy driving prevalence decreased with age, from below 4.9% among adults aged 18–44 years to 1.7% among those aged 65 years or older.
At the very least, the agency’s report injects some concrete numbers into the drowsy driving debate. How that will influence federal policy, though, is anyone’s guess.