Safety Officials not Doing their Part to Combat Driver Fatigue
As scientific data continues to mount regarding the dangers of driver fatigue, the lack of response to this issue by safety officials becomes increasingly alarming. Pilots, truck drivers, train operators, and car drivers regularly place their lives and the lives of others in serious danger by operating a vehicle in a state of severe fatigue, yet transportation guidelines have been surprisingly negligent in addressing this danger.
In the past 40 years, there have been more than 320 airplane accidents related to pilot fatigue. These accidents have led to almost 750 fatalities. During this time, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has put forth 138 fatigue-related safety recommendations. Yet surprisingly, the U.S. Department of Transportation has only implemented a little less than half of these (68).
Recent studies on sleep deprivation conducted in Australia, Switzerland, Austria, and England have found that a person who has been awake for 24 hours functions at a similar level to an individual with a blood alcohol level of 0.10. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that fatigued pilots:
- Have a slower reaction time
- Suffer from attention lapses
- Have a decreased ability to multi-task
- Struggle with risk assessment
- Make decisions that would be considered dangerous when properly rested
- Suffer from a narrowed field of focus
Driver fatigue presents a similar problem for truck drivers. A 1993 study conducted by the NTSB found that driver fatigue resulted in more truck accidents than driving under the influence. Of the 3,311 fatal truck accidents examined by the study, between 30-40% of them were the result of truck driver fatigue, and more than 50% of all single-driver truck accidents took place between 2 am and 6 am. Approximately 75% of these early morning accidents were due to driver fatigue.
In response to this growing issue, the NTSB has made 34 recommendations to address driver fatigue on our nation’s roadways. To date, the U.S. Department of Transportation has only implemented 17 of them.
It is urgent that federal lawmakers begin addressing this pressing issue to ensure the safety of our nation’s drivers and passengers. The stakes are too high to ignore driver fatigue any longer.