Auto insurers take note: Drowsy driving leads to motor vehicle crashes at much higher levels than federal statistics currently suggest, a new study has concluded.

The AAA Foundation For Traffic Study found that 21 percent of all crashes in the United States where someone was killed stemmed from a drowsy driver. As many as 13 percent of drowsy driving-related crashes led to someone being hospitalized; 7 percent of those crashes caused someone to require treatment for crash-related injuries, and 6 percent of drowsy-related crashes resulted in at least one vehicle having to be towed from the accident site, the report concluded.

The data looked at 14,268 crashes (a representative sample) from between 2009 and 2013, and builds on earlier research from the AAA Foundation that relied on data going back to 1999.

By contrast, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests drowsy drivers contributed to between 1 percent and 3 percent of U.S. motor vehicle accidents annually in the U.S., the report noted.

Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a statement that the results point to drowsy driving as “a serious traffic safety problem” where drivers “underestimate this risk and overestimate their ability to combat drowsiness behind the wheel.”

The larger drowsy driver accident rates tracked by AAA will certainly be of interest to auto insurers seeking to reduce coverage costs. Companies such as Progressive Insurance Group are focusing on newer technology such as telematics to make this happen – wireless technology that can convey a driver’s behavior to insurers. Drivers are encouraged to sign up for telematics monitoring in exchange for discounts, and Progressive national product development leader Tom Hollyer said at the recent PCI conference that its use has helped spur more good driving.

The AAA warns drowsy drivers to get off the road if they face warning signs including the inability to recall the last few miles traveled, disconnected or wandering thoughts, repeated yawning and the missing of traffic signs. Drowsy drivers should make sure they get at least 7 hours of sleep before driving, drive at times they are normally awake, take periodic breaks and avoid heavy floods, the AAA said.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a non-profit educational and research organization-arm of AAA.

Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety