According to a recent report by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), motor vehicle crashes caused by drowsy driving continue to be under-recognized due to a lack of uniformity in state crash reporting data.

The NSF’s first annual “State of the States Report on Drowsy Driving” found that while significant progress is being made to battle drowsy driving, much remains to be accomplished. For example, the study found most police officers are not receiving adequate training on the impact of fatigue on driving performance. The lack of uniform codes and proper training for law enforcement creates a situation where only very conservative statistics exist, NSF said.

Current National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates claim drowsy driving causes at least 100,000 police-reported crashes per year, killing more than 1,550 Americans annually.

The vast majority of states responding to the 2007 survey indicated that they have the ability to charge a drowsy driver under existing laws – similar to findings from a survey conducted in 1998, said NSF. However, the current report found a wide variance in the types of charges that would be levied, with only New Jersey explicitly defining drowsy driving as “recklessness” under a vehicular homicide statute. Known as “Maggie's Law.” New Jersey's drowsy driving law has served to raise awareness of the consequences of fatigue behind the wheel. There are now at least 8 states with 12 pending bills that address fatigued driving in various ways, NSF said.

“We will use this report to work toward establishing standard language that states may use to code sleep-related crashes on police crash report forms and to address the impact of sleep loss in police training programs,” said Darrel Drobnich, NSF acting CEO. “This will lead to more accurate statistics that will allow us to better recognize and better address this national tragedy.”