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Fatigue isn’t trucking’s problem alone …

Nov. 10, 2011

Although the vast majority of drivers recognize the serious threat of drowsy driving, a ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’ attitude exists when getting behind the wheel. Drivers have a tendency to underestimate the impact being tired has on their driving ability, which puts themselves and others at risk.” –Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation president and CEO

It’s pretty discouraging to discover that while 96% of the motorists recently surveyed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety feel drowsy driving is an unacceptable behavior, almost a third of those same drivers (32%) admitted to operating a vehicle within the last 30 days when they were so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open.

Add to those worrisome facts these recent AAA Foundation findings: two out of every five drivers (41%) admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point, with one in 10 saying they had done so in the past year.

“What's so alarming is that over half of these drivers reported having fallen asleep while driving on high‐speed roads,” noted Jake Nelson, AAA's director of traffic safety advocacy and research in a statement. “This data underscores the importance of educating drivers about the dangers of drowsy driving.”

These factoids come from the AAA Foundation's fourth annual Traffic Safety Culture Index study, conducted by the group Knowledge Networks back in June, which polled a nationally representative sample of 3,147 U.S. residents ages 16 and older.

AAA’s “drowsy driving” findings become an even bigger issue when you consider that one of every six deadly crashes and one in eight crashes causing serious injury involved a drowsy driver, Nelson added.

This is substantially higher than previous estimates, he stressed, confirming the suspicions of researchers that the impact of drowsy driving on motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths has been greatly underestimated.

For trucking journalists like me, a few things become very clear after perusing the AAA Foundation’s survey findings on this subject.

First and foremost, it shows that driving while fatigued is not solely the trucking industry’s problem. Indeed, if we are to reduce crashes caused in part by drowsy driving, we must address the issue for ALL motorists, not just the folks piloting big rigs.

Second, this survey shows yet again that operating a motor vehicle in this country is not taken as seriously as it should be. In some ways, it’s almost become too “routine” if you will: like brushing one’s teeth or swigging down the morning cup of java.

Yet even compact cars weigh thousands of pounds and can cause significant damage, injury, and death at even low speeds. Still, our nation’s “driving culture” ignores the potential dangers as drivers of all stripes jabber on the phone, read books and of course nod off behind the wheel – situations ripe for causing untold catastrophe on our roadways.

Remember, too, that everyday motorists form part of the potential labor pool from which truck drivers emerge – and if they don’t take their responsibilities seriously at the wheel of a sedan or pickup, why would they suddenly change their ways upon entering a big rig’s cab?

“Although the vast majority of drivers recognize the serious threat of drowsy driving, a ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’ attitude exists when getting behind the wheel,” stressed Peter Kissinger, the AAA Foundation’s president and CEO. “Drowsy driving kills, just as sure as drunk, drugged and distracted driving does.”

Hopefully, all U.S. motorists will take that to heart and change their behavior behind the wheel , instead of only nodding their heads in agreement with it.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr 1 | Senior Editor

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