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4/23/2013 - VTTI: Fatigue leading risk factor responsible for crashes

Fatigue while driving appears to be a leading cause of accidents among motorists across the country.

With April designated as Distracted Driver Awareness Month, a bevy of statistics have pointed to the fact that multitasking behind the wheel dramatically raises the likelihood a motorist will file an auto insurance claim. But a new round of research has been released indicating that a less common type of distraction is the leading cause of crashes.

According to researchers from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, fatigued driving results in more accidents than any other behavioral risk factor. Analysts were able to determine this after reviewing 110,000 different traffic events where an accident nearly took place or did occur and what precipitated these incidents, such as braking hard, running a red light and other non-conflict events.

Based on police reports that accompanied these events, VTTI researchers discovered that in the majority of the accidents they reviewed, fatigue was the most common risk factor that played a role.

"Applying the findings to the population at-large, these results suggest that drivers are at a four times greater risk of a crash or near-crash if they choose to drive while fatigued," said Tom Dingus, VTTI director. "That suggests that about 12% of all crashes and near-crashes in the population are attributable to fatigue."

Health officials have long pointed out that lack of sleep has a deleterious effect on people's everyday lives in a variety of ways, both on cognitive function and physical well-being. The National Sleep Foundation says that based on polling results, approximately 60% of adult drivers say that they have driven at the wheel while in a drowsy state. Additionally, one-third of motorists say that they've been so tired while driving that they've fallen asleep for a brief period.

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