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Feds to investigate, combat drowsy driving (2 of 2)

As we began discussing in our last post, federal safety officials recently announced that they will be targeting drowsy driving in a new safety campaign.

It was once believed that fatigued driving played a role in 100,000 crashes annually, contributing to 1,500 fatalities and 71,000 injuries. But the National Transportation Safety Board believes the number could be much higher, which is why safety officials agree that more data is needed.

The hope is that the new safety campaign will reveal the true impact of drowsy driving so that “we know what we are up against,'' the head of the NHTSA said at a recent safety conference.

Solutions could include everything from high-tech computer algorithms that alert a driver when he or she is getting sleepy, to the traditional rumble strips on the side of the roads, the NHTSA head said.

The Chicago Tribune reported that one of the reasons it is hard to determine whether fatigue played a role in a crash is because there is no great way to test for it. Most drivers are not forthcoming with information admitting that they fell asleep behind the wheel or that they may have dozed off.

With drunk driving, police can use breathalyzers and toxicology reports to determine if a driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol after being involved in a crash, and investigators can access a driver’s cellphone data to determine if he or she was texting, but there is no test for sleepiness.

That is one of the reasons why federal law requires truck drivers to keep a log of their time on the road as well as their time off. After a serious trucking accident, investigators can turn to the log book to see if a driver had been taking appropriate rest time, or if the driver was likely fatigued when the accident occurred.

At this time, no log books exist for most drivers on the roadways, so personal injury lawyers often have to depend on evidence such as witness testimony to help prove whether drowsy driving played a role in accidents.

But hopefully, the new safety campaign is effective at reducing car accidents caused by drowsy driving in the first place.

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