There are many causes of car accidents in California but a new study found just how big of an impact fatigue may play on car accidents across the country. The study found that fatigue causes roughly 20 percent of car accidents, according the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

The researchers said that their study allowed them to observe driver behavior just before a car accident, which helped them determine a much clearer reason for what caused the accident. The study found that 20 percent of all car accidents and 16 percent of almost car accidents were attributed to driver fatigue.

In these cases, the drivers showed signs of fatigue, including eyelids closing, head bobbing, micro-sleep and loss of facial movements. Driver fatigue is a very dangerous and serious issue because any of these symptoms can cause a driver to lose focus on the road for just seconds and result in a serious or fatal car accident.

In addition to finding that fatigue causes many more car accidents than previously believed, the study also found who is more likely to drive fatigued. The study reported that 18 to 20-year-olds were involved in more fatigue-related car accidents than any other age group.

The researchers said that this was not that surprising since teenagers’ sleep patterns change and they tend to get less than the recommended amount of sleep every night. They said that adults can also be fatigued while driving but they have more experience driving and don’t need as much sleep as adolescents since their bodies are no longer growing.

Driving while fatigued is very dangerous and increases the risk of being a car accident. The good news is that drivers can take steps to make sure they are aware of the warning signs of fatigue to prevent driving when they are too tired.

Below are the following signs of fatigue and what every driver should be aware of before getting behind the wheel:

  • Driving over the center lane or weaving
  • Daydreaming
  • Felling impatient
  • Heavy eyes or excessive yawning
  • Slow reaction time
  • Not remembering the last few seconds or minutes of driving

Source: EHS Today, “Wake Up and Drive: Fatigue Causes 20 Percent of Crashes,” Laura Walter, June 5, 2013