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November 8th, 2010
12:01 AM ET

Drowsy drivers threaten road safety

Two out of every five drivers say they've fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point, and more than a quarter of drivers responding to a survery admit being so sleepy that they've had trouble keeping their eyes open while driving in the previous month, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Researchers also found that one in 10 people reported falling asleep while driving within the past year.  The study was based in part on telephone surveys of 2,000 U.S. residents ages 16 and older last spring .
"I think the biggest mistake people make is that they underestimate how tired they are and they overestimate their ability to deal with it when they are driving," said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of AAA Foundation, the research affiliate of AAA.

Crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) between 1999 and 2008 also were analyzed. Researchers estimate that drowsy driving was involved in about one in six- or 16.5 percent-  of fatal crashes and about one in eight- or 13 percent- of accidents requiring hospitalization, whether on the highway or on other roads. According to 2008 statistics from the NHTSA, 2.4 percent of fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver.

"The big thing is really attitude. We see, overall, in terms of driving safety, more of a complacency or an indifference where people seem to almost accept the fact that we will have tragedy on the nation's highways as the price we need to pay for the mobility we clearly enjoy in this country. Not only are they putting themselves at risk, but they're putting other people on the nation's highways at risk as well," Kissinger said.

He suggested rather than beginning a long road trip after a long day of work, getting a good night's sleep and starting out early the next morning.  "Apply common sense," he said. "If we're tired, we shouldn't start driving and if we are tired when we're driving, we should do whatever we can do to get off the road and get some rest."


soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. Slowpoke

    Vehicle automation is slowly coming along. I believe it will solve a whole bunch of problems associated with driving. Maybe in my lifetime I'll ride in a car that drives itself... but for now I guess we have to deal as best we can.

    November 9, 2010 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Karen hill

    I nearly fell asleep behind the wheel the other day but i had my anti sleep alarm on and it sounded so i pulled over and had a break. They are not that expensive and i got mine from NO NAP

    January 3, 2011 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.