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Causes of 18 Wheeler Accidents

A 100-car “naturalistic” driving study was conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. It found that fatigue is a factual cause of 20 percent of all motor vehicle crashes. This is higher than the two to three percent previously thought based upon test tracts, simulator studies and surveys. Additionally, this study discovered that 18-20 year old drivers are responsible for many more crashes related to fatigue than any other identifiable age group. While late teens sleep patterns trend to later hours, school hours for students still tend to begin early, leading to sleepiness during the day. Older drivers face similar issues when they combine early times to work with late nights. They do, however, have more years of experience dealing with moderate fatigue, according to the researchers. Charlie Klauer, a group leader with the “teen risk and injury prevention” program at the “Transportation Institute’s” “Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety,” issued the following statement:

“A finding that surprised people is the prevalence of fatigue during the day. We found significantly more crashes/near crashes due to fatigue during the day than at night. The study allowed us, for the first time, to observe driver behavior just prior to a crash. In 20 percent of all crashes and 16 percent of all near crashes, the driver was showing fatigue. We saw eye-lid closure, head bobbing, severe loss of facial musculature, micro-sleep – which is when your eyes drift shut and then pop up. This was not just yawning. The drivers were asleep.”

Naturalist type research generally involves observing people’s behavior in its natural setting, as it takes place. It involves no, or very limited, interference with the subjects’ activity. One hundred drivers whose daily commute is out of or into the Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C. metropolitan area were recruited initially as the primary drivers were to have their vehicles outfitted with instruments or be given a leased vehicle already instrumented for this specific study. Because friends or other family members would sometimes drive the vehicles with instruments, 132 additional drivers had data collected. The researchers intentionally selected a bigger sample of under 25 drivers, compared with the total number of drivers, and a number of them drove more than the generally average mileage.

Engineers at the Virginia Tech University “Transportation Institute” developed the system used to acquire data from the cars in the study. The sensing devices included at least five video feed channels, forward and rearward radar units, lane tracking software, accelerometers, inside the vehicle network sensor. All the cameras had unobtrusively mountings in order to encourage more natural driving behavior.

Researchers physically looked at in excess of 110, 000 individual driving events to validate 10, 548 events. Specifically, they observed 761 near crashes; 82 crashes; 8,295 other incidents like braking hard for stopped or slowing traffic; and at least 1,423 non-vehicle conflict events, like running stop lights with no other traffic nearby. Also, 20,000 randomly selected 6-second video segments were reviewed. Many incidents of severe to moderate driver fatigue were observed. This provided an estimate of the amount of time fatigued drivers were behind the wheel and were not involved in a near crash or a crash. The total number of subjects who were involved in fatigue-related crashes and near-crashes was 38, with 11 drivers accounting for 58 percent of all the fatigue-related crashes and near-crashes. Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, stated:

“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. That suggests that about 12 percent of all crashes and near-crashes in the population are attributed to fatigue.”

These numbers are frightening.

Source: The Insurance Journal

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