New Drowsy Driving Report Paints Nightmarish Picture


  • Drowsy Driving Picture

    Drowsy Driving Picture

    A new study highlights the prevalence — and danger — of drowsy driving. | January 04, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control finds that drowsy driving is common and dangerous.
  • The report studied data from nearly 150,000 drivers in 19 states and the District of Columbia and found that 4.2 percent of those surveyed had fallen asleep at the wheel in the past 30 days.
  • Men were more likely to report drowsy driving than women.

ATLANTA, Georgia — A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control finds that drowsy driving is common and dangerous.

The report studied data from nearly 150,000 drivers in 19 states and the District of Columbia and found that 4.2 percent of those surveyed had fallen asleep at the wheel in the past 30 days.

The analysis was published on Thursday in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and is considered to be the largest ever to examine the prevalence of drowsy driving.

Men were more likely to report drowsy driving than women, the study noted.

The report noted that drowsy driving is most common among people who say they sleep six or fewer hours per day, experience snoring and other symptoms of sleep disorders, or unintentionally fall asleep during the day.

"Although it is clear that falling asleep while driving is dangerous, drowsiness impairs driving skills even if drivers manage to stay awake," the report said. "Drowsiness slows reaction time, makes drivers less attentive and impairs decision-making skills, all of which can contribute to motor vehicle crashes."

The prevalence of drowsy driving was highest in Texas and lowest in Oregon, the report said.

According to official NHTSA statistics, 2.5 percent of fatal vehicle crashes and 2 percent of nonfatal crashes can be attributed to drowsy driving.

However, say the authors of the CDC report, data-collection methods are inexact, and some modeling studies suggest that 15 to 33 percent of fatal crashes may involve drowsy driving. NHTSA admits "statistics underreport the extent of these types of crashes."

The National Sleep Foundation echoes the likelihood that drowsy driving is underreported, noting that drivers who recall "blacking out" prior to a crash may actually have fallen asleep at the wheel. The NSF, in its White Paper on Drowsy Driving, also points out that the effects of drowsy driving are similar to a "blood alcohol concentration close to that of the legal limit in most states in a well-rested person."

The authors of the CDC report say the warning signs of drowsy driving can include frequent yawning, blinking, drifting out of the lane, hitting rumble strips on the shoulder of the road, missing exits, and difficulty remembering the last few miles driven. For prevention, they suggest getting 7-9 hours of sleep per day, seeking treatment for sleep disorders (such as apnea), and avoiding alcohol use prior to driving.

Edmunds says: Drowsy driving is another form of impaired driving, and motorists should be aware of its warning signs and get off the road when they appear.

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