Most officials, researchers and laypeople agree that drowsy driving is a significant problem. However, different organizations use different methods of trying to gauge drowsy driving prevalence. As a result, estimates differ as to exactly how big the problem is.
Compounding the problem is the fact that, according to the National Safety Council, determining whether a driver was drowsy at the time of the crash can be difficult in itself. An overview of different drowsy driving estimates from various sources illustrates how difficult gauging the prevalence can be.
The NSC cites a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that estimates approximately 100,000 drowsy driving crashes nationwide every year. This number derives from the number of crashes in which drowsiness was a factor according to reports by law enforcement. If the NHTSA’s estimate is correct, those 100,000 drowsy driving crashes result in 71,000 injuries and at least 1,550 fatalities across the United States on an annual basis.
However, the NSC also describes another study suggesting that drowsy driving is 350% more prevalent than government studies indicate. This study was the work of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and estimated annual drowsy driving crashes in the U.S. in excess of 328,000. It estimates a fatality rate over four times that of the NHTSA study, as well as over 100,000 injuries resulting from drowsy driving, crashes every year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe yet another survey involving drivers aged at least 18 years old. When asked if they had fallen asleep while driving at least once within the last 30 days, one out of every 25, or 4%, said that they had. The survey contacted people in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and approximately 150,000 adults participated.