Thanks to decades of public safety campaigns, modern car owners are well-aware of the dangers associated with drunk and distracted driving. Drowsy driving, on the other hand, has received far less attention from safety experts until recently.
Earlier this week at the 2017 Managing Fatigue Conference in San Diego, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it is launching a new campaign to raise awareness about drowsy driving, and offer strategies to prevent people from falling asleep at the wheel. According to preliminary research conducted by the NHTSA, drowsy driving was responsible for roughly 41,000 injuries and more than 800 deaths in 2015. With this campaign, the NHTSA hopes to dramatically reduce the number of drowsy driving accidents that happen each year.
The goals outlined in the campaign are quite broad, covering everything from public education to vehicle safety technologies to employer policies and safety legislation. These include, but are not limited to:
Facilitating engagement between the sleep science community and the insurance industry
Evaluating the effectiveness of corporate fatigue-management policies
Encouraging the adoption of collision-avoidance technologies
Developing fatigue-risk-management programs for high-risk professions such as EMS responders
Exploring the potential of graduated driver licensing laws to reduce drowsy driving
Ultimately, embracing new advancements in vehicle safety technology may offer the best chance of reducing fatigue-induced accidents. If autonomous vehicles become the norm, they may even eliminate drowsy driving accidents in the future. Until then, collision-avoidance systems and lane-departure alerts can make a big difference as well. As these technologies become standard features on more vehicles, we can expect to see a decline in accident rates across the board.