Dear Senator/Representative ___________________:
I am writing to urge that you retain the $2 million in funding to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that was allocated by the Senate FY97 Transportation bill, during the upcoming House/Senate conference. The funds are allocated to NHTSA for the continuation of its public awareness activities relating to fatigue and transportation.
Forty million American adults suffer from chronic sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, and another 20 to 30 million have intermittent sleep sleep problems; millions more at any given time have not obtained sufficient sleep. The consequences of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation are not trivial: they include reduced productivity; lowered cognitive performance; and increased likelihood of accidents, behind the wheel, on the job, and at home; increased morbity and mortality; and a decreased quality of life.
More specifically, sleep-related motor vehicle accidents continue to take the lives of young and old citizens at great emotional and financial cost. According to the NHTSA, in 1992 there were an estimated 50,000 crashes in which driver drowsiness or fatigue was indicated as a contributing factor on the Police Accident Report. Drowsiness and fatigue probably play an even greater role, as many drivers do not admit to being sleepy, or even recognize that they were sleepy at the time of the accident. In many states, police accident reports do not include sleepiness, drowsiness or fatigue as a possible cause. Recent studies have revealed that 20% of the population of the United States admits to having fallen asleep while driving. Individuals with moderate or severe sleep apnea have a 250% increased likelihood of having an auto accident as compared to the average driver. In 1991 in this country, "single-vehicle roadway departure crashes" accounted for 20.8% of all crashes and 37.4% of all fatalities. The fact that in 66.8% of all "single-roadway departure crashes" there was no corrective action taken by the driver, indicates that a large percentage of these accidents may be sleep related. Additionally, the interaction of alcohol and disturbed sleep increases drowsiness and compounds the impairment of driver performance.
(In this paragraph, please relate your personal experience with sleep disorders.)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in partnership with the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research can do much to alleviate this deadly problem on our nation's roads. Please support the $2 million provision in the Senate version to allow NHTSA to continue its important work.
Thank you in advance for your support of NHTSA's public awareness/fatigue efforts. Please advise me of your position on this issue.