Fatigue Biggest Cause Of Car Crashes, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Finds

11:09 AM, Apr 17, 2013   |    comments
  • The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute's 100-car naturalistic driving study documented that fatigue is the number one cause of driver distraction resulting in crashes and near crashes. Courtesy VTTI.
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Blacksburg, VA -- Smartphones, food and other common distractions while driving have taken the brunt of the blame for causing accidents. 

A new study from Virginia Tech is throwing a common problem in the mix as the biggest cause of accidents....FATIGUE!

Researchers at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted a 100-car naturalistic driving study that showed fatigue is a cause of 20 percent of crashes, rather than the two or three percent previously estimated based on surveys, simulator studies and test tracks.

Another discovery by the institute, 18- to 20-year-olds account for more fatigue-related crashes than any other age group. Adolescents' sleep patterns shift to later hours. Researchers added that the school day still tends to start early, resulting in daytime sleepiness. Older drivers can face similar issues with late nights and early work times, but have more experience coping with moderate fatigue.

The school created the data collection system used for the 100-car study. The cars were equipped with sensors that included five video channels, forward and rear Vorad radar units, accelerometers, lane tracking software and an in-vehicle network sensor. The cameras were mounted unobtrusively in order to facilitate naturalistic driving behavior.

Researchers viewed more than 110,000 events in order to validate 10,548 events - specifically, 82 crashes, including 13 where the data was incomplete; 761 near crashes; 8,295 incidents, such as braking hard for slowing or stopped traffic; and 1,423 non-conflict events, such as running a stop light with no traffic present.

In addition, 20,000 randomly selected six second segments of video were viewed. Incidents of moderate to severe driver fatigue were noted, providing an estimate of the amount of time drivers were fatigued but were not involved in a crash or near-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.

"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," said Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. "That suggests that about 12 percent of all crashes and near-crashes in the population are attributable to fatigue."

Analyses with the 100-car study database will continue. Data from a new U.S. study, the Strategic Highway Research Program, with 2,000 cars, will provide greater statistical power.

Read more at VTTI's website.

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