Boston Researchers Examine Drowsy Drivers

According to a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts has as many as 600 sleep-related crashes per year, resulting in serious injuries and, in some cases, fatalities. The state of Massachusetts began investigating the effects of drowsy driving after a motorcyclist was killed by a sleep-deprived driver in 2002.

A panel chaired by Senator Richard T. Moore, of Uxbridge, is considering the possibility of laws to increase penalties for sleep-deprived drivers who cause car accidents and to educate drivers about the dangers of driving while drowsy. Response times are slowed in sleep-deprived drivers, and they are more likely to become distracted, according to a sleep specialist who teaches at Harvard Medical School.

A professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital told the panel that in addition to truck driver, police officers and firefighters are at risk of driving while sleep-deprived. In fact, he estimated that 40% of the motor vehicle accidents that involve police officers may be the result of drowsy driving.

Currently, it is difficult to test for drowsy driving, but technology is under development that would allow officers to test for drowsy driving at traffic stops.

Legislative panel sounds wake-up call on drowsy driving, Boston Globe, November 7, 2008
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