NHTSA Administrator Rosekind vows to combat drowsy driving

Of the many plagues prowling our roadways, drowsy driving doesn't quite get the coverage that driving while drunk or distracted enjoys. It's a good thing, then, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to change that.

The safety agency is aiming to crack down on drowsy driving, looking for ways to gather more data and raise awareness, The Detroit News reports. Administrator Mark Rosekind brought up the not-so-hot-button issue in Chicago on Monday, saying NHTSA will be working with states to sort out the best ways to combat the problem.

"We're going to develop strategies specifically targeting populations especially vulnerable to drowsy driving," Rosekind said, according to the News. "And we're going to comprehensively examine the role that driver aids, in the car and outside of it, can play – everything from high-tech solutions like computer algorithms that detect when you're getting sleepy behind the wheel, to old standbys like rumble strips on the road."

While we hear a lot more about driving under the influence or while texting, drowsy driving remains a dangerous force to be reckoned with. From 2005 to 2009, NHTSA claims that 2.2 to 2.6 percent of fatal crashes can be blamed on drivers nodding off behind the wheel. That works out to roughly 1,000 potentially preventable deaths per year, on average. The News reports that 72,000 drowsy driving crashes resulted in injuries to people or property.

Why the sudden concern over drowsy driving? Well, it's at least partially due to Rosekind's background. The News reports that in a previous life, the new NHTSA administrator worked for NASA, as a scientist specializing in human fatigue. Here's hoping that experience really helps address a truly troubling problem.

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