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Dangers of drowsy driving are clear, but measuring the act is not

When it comes to distracted driving, much of the attention immediately goes to texting while driving. Not only is it the "hot topic" when it comes to traffic safety, but it also deserves to be a central focus of traffic safety advocates and officials. Texting while driving is highly negligent and extremely dangerous; and all too preventable. All drivers have to do is make the simple decision to leave their phones in their pockets while behind the wheel. Just like that, texting while driving accidents would be eliminated.

Of course, that is a utopian thought. It will never happen quite like that; and even if it did, there would still be other unfortunate traffic incidents that occur. Some would qualify as distracted driving; others would just be unfortunate. Drowsy driving probably falls somewhere between the two.

Drowsy driving is not quite distracted driving (though it has similar effects, such as reduced driving capacity for the vehicle's operator), and it is not easy to prove. Even if a driver was drowsy or sleeping prior to an accident, if they survive the wreck, they are no longer in that state. And there is likely little to no evidence that they were asleep, unless they give a statement to the contrary.

Texting while driving can be proven through phone records or the phone itself; alcohol or drug use while operating a vehicle can be proven through drug tests. But with drowsy driving, there is virtually no way to prove it, let alone measure it. Federal data suggests that 11,000 people died from 2000 to 2010 as a result of "drowsy driving" accidents.

Source: Associated Press, "Drowsy driving remains an elusive highway dilemma," Frank Eltman, May 11, 2013

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