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Fatigue Causes 20 Percent Of U.S. Auto Crashes

BLACKSBURG, Va. (UPI) — Fatigue is a cause of 20 percent of U.S. automobile crashes, rather than the 2 percent or 3 percent previously estimated, researchers say.

Charlie Klauer of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety, said previous studies used surveys, simulator studies and test tracks, but this study used automobiles equipped with five video cameras, radar, accelerometers, lane-tracking software and an in-vehicle network sensor. The cameras were mounted unobtrusively in order to facilitate naturalistic driving behavior, Klauer said.

The study involved said 100 drivers who commuted into or out of the Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C., metropolitan area as well as family members and friends would occasionally drive the instrumented vehicles.

Researchers viewed more than 110,000 events in order to validate 10,548 events — specifically, 82 crashes, 761 near crashes; 8,295 incidents, such as braking hard for slowing; and 1,423 non-conflict events, such as running a stop light with no traffic present.

“One of the most important results from the 100-car naturalistic driving study was the degree to which fatigue is a cause of accidents,” Klauer said in a 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 research team was able 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,” Klauer said. “This was not just yawning. The drivers were asleep.”

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