Drowsy driving cases on the rise in Utah

Mar 20, 2023, 7:51 PM | Updated: 7:56 pm

SALT LAKE CITYA new AAA study shows many of us don’t know how sleepy we are behind the wheel.

Driving drowsy is comparable to driving intoxicated or impaired behind the wheel, and unfortunately, the Utah Highway Patrol said when pulling people over, drivers aren’t quick to admit that they are drowsy. And the study shows just that — that most of us don’t really know how tired we are.

Although it’s likely underreported, research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated that up to 21% of all police-reported fatal crashes involved drowsy driving. And even more recent research found that drivers underestimate their level of fatigue, leading them to drive on the road when they are better off stopping for a break.

In Utah, drowsy driving was the cause of 10 fatal crashes in 2021, which is up from the past five years.

“The person is still impaired when they’re fatigued; they’re not recognizing what’s going on around them, what’s going on inside the vehicle, and performing the basic functions of driving that need to happen,” said UHP Sgt. Cameron Roden. “And so, fatigue driving is a big problem and people need to be aware of it.”

“We need to take that time away from our busy, fast-paced lives to do the things to help keep us safe, but especially too when we’re traveling with family, loved ones, and friends, we’ve seen crashes that not only just end badly for us, but for them as well,” he added.

The study was done by observing drivers in a 150-mile simulated nighttime highway, including rest areas. It found that the level of drowsiness increased throughout the driving experiment. Seventy-five percent of drivers in the study refused to take a break. Also, 75% of the drivers were found to be moderately to severely drowsy by the end of it.

Remember, being awake enough to drive safely doesn’t mean blasting the music or rolling down the windows. Sometimes, it takes pulling over, taking a nap on a long road trip, and traveling during times of the day when you are normally awake.

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Drowsy driving cases on the rise in Utah