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1 in 24 report driving while drowsy
January 4th, 2013
03:55 PM ET

1 in 24 report driving while drowsy

Most of us are familiar with the dangers of drunken driving, but drowsy driving can be just as deadly. Studies estimate 15% to 33% of fatal crashes involve tired drivers, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Being sleep-deprived slows our reaction time, said Dr. Michael Howell, a sleep expert with the University of Minnesota. That can mean hitting something we might otherwise avoid, like a child on a bicycle who suddenly veers off the sidewalk.

We're also more impulsive when we're tired, Howell said. It's like our brains revert to being teenagers. "We respond to things without thinking them through," he says. "... Road rage happens because people are sleep deprived."

The CDC report analyzed data from a 2009-2010 national behavioral telephone survey of more than 147,000 respondents. Approximately 4.2% of those surveyed reported having fallen asleep while driving at least once during the last month. That’s one out of every 24 people.

That sounds like a small number, but the problem may be more prevalent over a longer period. A 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll found that 60% of drivers had driven while sleepy in the preceding year. In a 2010 national telephone survey, more than 40% of people admitted to having “fallen asleep or nodded off” while driving at some point in their lives, according to a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Men were more likely than women to report falling asleep at the wheel, according to the new CDC report. Howell said men are more likely than women to have sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea. They're also less likely to regularly get enough sleep.

"We live in a sleep-deprived culture," he said. "There’s a reason why there’s a coffee shop on every corner. We don’t sleep as much as we should."

Howell has five New Year's resolutions to ensure you’re well rested in 2013. Check them out here.


soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. relmfoxdale

    "1 in 24 report driving while drowsy" doesn't mean the same thing as "falling asleep,' at least not to me. Every single person in this country who drives has driven while tired, and if they tell you differently, they're lying.

    January 4, 2013 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • brian

      In this context, tired is not the same as drowsy.

      January 5, 2013 at 00:23 | Report abuse |
    • youni43

      What the cnn blog doesn't mention is that by the time you 'feel' drowsy - you are already sleeping. The jargon is "microsleep". The brain switches to sleep state for fractions of a second - you are 'unconcious' when asleep so these lapses pass without notice. As you get sleepier – microsleeps occur more frequently and become longer ... until you notice that you are dozing off. ABC did a nice segment on microsleep recently – check it out
      http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/blink-eye-dozing-driving/story?id=17870880#.UOgZ6W_oTz4

      January 5, 2013 at 07:26 | Report abuse |
  2. popeye

    Don't think people will be honest answering this. Sad to say, I've done it. Open the window, chew gum....done it all.

    January 4, 2013 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Booseyboo

    We must ban cars!!!

    January 5, 2013 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • glcp

      More like ban drowsy drivers. As long as they're not hopelessly drowsy or fiscally drowsy.

      January 5, 2013 at 15:25 | Report abuse |
    • paul

      Better yet, everyone should drive drowsy, to protect ourselves. More cars with drowsy drivers is the answer.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
  4. Jon

    Seriously, CNN?

    Who doesn't drive "drowsy"? People are tired. We have s–t to do! We are the hardest working country in the world! But there's a difference between being drowsy and falling asleep.

    I've fallen asleep while driving once. Long story short, those "rumble strips" on the side of the road that make your car vibrate ACTUALLY WORK! (Or.... I'm dead. And everything I'm experiencing right now isn't real...)

    January 5, 2013 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SixDegrees

      Lucky you – you just happened to drift from the outermost lane onto the shoulder. Had you drifted the other way, things might not have worked out the same.

      January 6, 2013 at 04:37 | Report abuse |
  5. sybaris

    I drive drowsy all the time. Makes the trip go by faster.

    January 5, 2013 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Student

    "Being sleep-deprived slows our reaction time, said Dr. Michael Howell, a sleep expert with the University of Minnesota."

    Being an engineering student at the University of Minnesota, I drive to school tired a lot more often than I drive to school rested.

    January 5, 2013 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jonathan

      Same here when I was in architecture school. If you started your final project early you wouldn't be able to integrate the profs last minute suggestions, often earning a lower grade. If you waited until the prof gave you the OK you had days, or at most a week to complete your final design on a weeks or months-long project. We had keys to the school so we could work 24 hrs a day, and were generally told that it was "better" to do our work at school. Luckily they looked the other way when we brought couches into the school for our studios. One of my peers did claim to be hearing things after a few days without sleeping, he fell asleep in class right after presenting his design.

      Luckily after graduating the retail jobs I've had aren't as bad, though there were times when I got home from work after 11pm and had to be back the next day at 5am, hard not to be drowsy on the ride home after that shift. Was even worse when I held 2 retail jobs.

      January 6, 2013 at 22:28 | Report abuse |
  7. JunkNews

    FFS how about some REAL research to report on – while driving ?

    OR

    I suggest other wasteful, expensive "studies" to perform for more meaningless reporting:

    The number of women that put on makeup in the car in the morning.
    ( 3 Values – # accidents of ones that needed more or ones needed less makeup,
    and then, those needing the most for an open casket service,
    Kardashians ( and others ) are always ready for such a service ! )

    The number of people that eat-drink beverages in the car.
    ( chart it based upon the popular fast food items, beverages,
    muffins, snack type, gourmet food – takeout type ... you do it )

    The number of BJ's received by a driver.
    ( data only available from willing "partici-pants " )
    Table column to include "free" date_type or professional.

    The number of BJ's/Sex given to get out of a ticket.
    ( again, quantify type, duration, qty... )

    The number of texts / hour by drivers
    The number of non-hands free calls by driver per hour
    ( Obviously, this data would have to come from the police/courts )

    The number of lane changes per mile
    The number of idiot drivers on the road per city block ( subjective, yet... )

    The number of a$$hats that drive slow in the fast/passing lane on hwys.
    ( if you are being passed by cars on the right, move over, or go home ! )

    The number of people that make 8-12 point parking maneuvers w/SUVs
    ( we're not shooting buck in season, and if you can't park/back it in 60 secs,
    you shouldn't own/drive one...)

    The number of people that can't park their vehicle between 2 lines.
    ( If you can't get it in between 2 lines 8-10 feet apart, how do you manage sex ? )

    And then, there is the teenage-twenties Darwin Award "winners" of
    Stupid Human Tricks that always begin with " Hey ! Watch this ! "
    You tube mostly exists for these pieces of "information" of the human condition.

    DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED...

    January 5, 2013 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sabina

      You forgot one; semi drivers

      January 5, 2013 at 12:52 | Report abuse |
    • Delmar H. Knudson

      Few seem to realize that driving is a skill, and should take our full attention. Unless one likes to look forward to an early death, months in a hospital, or becoming a paraplegic or quadriplegic.

      January 6, 2013 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
  8. Nyonben

    "That can mean hitting something we might otherwise avoid, like a child on a bicycle who suddenly veers off the sidewalk."

    Sounds like the problem is stupid pedestrians and children, not drivers.

    January 5, 2013 at 01:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Matt

    I just got into an accident 2 days ago because I didn't hardly get any sleep the night before. I was sleepy and made a stupid move and ended up side swiping another car

    January 5, 2013 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. pdxamir

    "We respond to things without thinking them through," he says. "... Road rage happens because people are sleep deprived."

    So... what? Are you saying I should suggest the person with road rage that he should be tucked in for a nap?

    January 5, 2013 at 03:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Laurie

    Ask a truck driver that question. These companies run their drivers into the ground without regard to the safety of the public or the driver. All the name of the almighty dollor.

    January 5, 2013 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Mary B

    Michigan has put rumble strips on most highways. I often wonder how many lives these have saved. We will never know.

    January 5, 2013 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SixDegrees

      Well, probably some. But statistically, on a three-lane highway, they will only prevent one-third of incidents if they are 100% effective, because someone asleep at the wheel can drift either way.

      January 6, 2013 at 04:48 | Report abuse |
    • Alex Eastman

      it would be between 1/6 and 1/3 depending on traffic (if there is a car between you and the strip) and if your one of the people stupid enough to make their car do a barrel roll by jerking back to the left all of a sudden

      January 6, 2013 at 19:40 | Report abuse |
    • mickimause

      Six & Alex – the rumble strips Mary B is referring to are between lanes, in addition to the shoulder – they're between opposing traffic. (They're also good for directing you back into your lane when you can't see the lines because of the snow that is falling or hasn't been plowed yet.)

      January 14, 2013 at 16:17 | Report abuse |
  13. c s

    One of my friend and his family was almost killed by a driver who fell asleep. The guy was talking to his girlfriend and fell asleep while driving on an Interstate highway. He went into the middle ditch and crossed 3 lanes before hitting my friend's mini-van head-on. The sleeping driver was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected out of his car and killed. My friend's family spent several day in the hospital.

    So if you are tired pull of the road and take a nap. The life you save maybe your own. Also wear your seat belt too. And do not drive and talk on your cell phone. Oh well at least he only killed himself.

    A final story about a tired driver. Not far from where I live, a nurse was driving home after a double shift at the local VA hospital. She fell asleep and drove off the road and killed an 18 year old girl who was walking on a bike path. The nurse survived and was sent to jail for vehicular homicide. So the nurse's life was ruined and an 18 year old girl is dead. What a waste.

    If you are tired, find a place to stop and take a nap. Please.

    January 5, 2013 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. empresstrudy

    Smoke more crack. Stay toasty.

    January 5, 2013 at 18:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Chad McMillan

    Having just driven from Nebraska to the West Coast, I can tell you, driving while tired, sleepy, drowsy, have deadly consequences. This is such a big issue, Utah has spent large sums of money on signs, warning drivers to pull over...or to report, drivers who appear drowsy. I drove past them, one after another, exhausted, thinking I had to get there...I just had to get there...and I did, but after a day of rest...I can't for the life of me, figure out why I didn't just stop. Thoughts kept going through my head that I should stop in the next town...if I see a next town. Complicating matters, it was cold, near zero degrees. My concern with even stopping to "nap"–is that I would not wake up...and yet, knowing how tired I was, I kept pushing myself. Stupid! Not only was I endangering myself–worse yet, I was endangering others. The last time I was this tired, I was eighteen years old, more than twenty years ago.

    Going back in time a bit. At eighteen, I had just graduated high school. One day, my girlfriend and I went up to the old school to say one last goodbye to her, while on a walk. This day lives with me forever. We had made it near the track I had run on for four years, when she asked the question; "What do you think would be the worst thing that could ever happen to you?" Thinking about it, in the shadow my my old stadium, I answered; "Easy...if I could never run again, if I were paralyzed." Of course this is ignorance for many reasons-but this is not why I share this detail. Fast-forward 4 months...it is November in Texas. I need to drive back to school in Austin, from my hometown, 3 hours away. It was late. There are mostly country roads...no lights, very dark. As always, I preferred driving at night. It was peaceful. Unfortunately, I left later than expected...and was tired thanks to a long weekend of trying to fit in time with old friends. Not one hour into the drive, I began to nod off. I heard my father's driving lesson...I thought about it..."If you are ever tired while driving, pull over and go to sleep." My car needed gas...so I pulled into a small town to fill-up, grabbed a Milkyway and a Coke...then hit the road. Now I have elevated my sugar levels–which will eventually crash. Once again–within an hour, I began to nod off...micro-sleep moments...until finally, I woke up off the road, headed for some trees. I slammed on my brakes...began spinning until I hit something solid (Cement Culvert) and spun off of it to a stop in the ditch. It was 1am...pre-cell phone days. Luckily I was awake, had had first aid training in the past...and knew to remain calm, not move, or allow anyone to move me. A man driving to the Gulf for fishing saw me off in the ditch. He approached the car to ask if I was okay. I asked if he could wave down a passing motorist–send them to the next town so an ambulance could be sent. In total, I sat in the car for over an hour. This was the longest night of my life...the worst night of my families life. Nothing has been the same. Those thoughts I shared with my girlfriend at the track–those are exactly what came true. It took under 3 seconds...but warnings of over an hour–knowing I was tired. Life goes on...we move forward...life is lived that way.....but I always hope people can use me as a lesson...just pull over; it isn't worth it.

    January 5, 2013 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Marvin Wayne Palmer, Jr

    More deadly, not safe at all. License to kill

    January 5, 2013 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Marvin Wayne Palmer, Jr

    More deadly, not safe at all. License to kill, don't know how to drive.

    January 5, 2013 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. James

    There will always be threats to our safety, we can't eliminate them all, it's unrealistic, what we can do is be more cautious as individuals, there is no nation without accidents or disasters.

    January 6, 2013 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SixDegrees

      It's quite evident that accidents and their consequences can be significantly reduced, however. Seat belts, airbags and ABS have contributed to a large reduction in injury, severity of injury and collisions occurring in the first place. And there are already systems available on some cars that detect when your eyes are closed for too long or your head is nodding that sound an alarm; there's no reason to think that such systems won't become commonplace.

      January 6, 2013 at 04:45 | Report abuse |
  19. SixDegrees

    This is a problem with a solution nearly at hand. There are already systems that detect when your eyes are closed for too long, or when your head is nodding, that sound an alarm to wake you up. It won't take much polish to pick up drowsiness cues even earlier.

    Feel free to turn it off. Of course, your car's black box will record that it was deactivated, and that will become part of the accident report.

    January 6, 2013 at 04:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      The solution will probably be self-drive cars. Google is already testing them on California roads because California passed a law permitting them. Toyota will be presenting a self-drive Lexus in an auto show soon. Google the words [toyota self drive] to see articles about it. I suspect there will be many on the road within 10 years.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:26 | Report abuse |
  20. scottro

    Only 1 in 24 drives drowsy? I would have guessed 23 of 24.

    January 6, 2013 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Delmar H. Knudson

    There is a large segment of the population who have sleeping disorders such as Sleep Apnea, who have trouble staying awake during daytime.

    January 6, 2013 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Malcolm

    "1 in 24 report driving while drowsy"... and the other 23 are lying.

    January 6, 2013 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Dave

    MSNBC survey results 62% said yes they did, I think that is a little closer to the truth.

    January 6, 2013 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. ryan c

    Then why do we let cops treat people like criminals if they pull over for some shut eye!!!

    January 6, 2013 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Portland tony

      I agree....
      Pulling of the road for a little shut eye or rest seems to turn you into public enemy #1.

      January 7, 2013 at 04:00 | Report abuse |
  25. empresstrudy

    I read that as driving while leprosy.

    January 6, 2013 at 18:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Portland tony

    In the sixties and seventies, a cup of coffee and a "prescribed" amphetamine would get you home quite safely. There you could unwind and sleep it off. And by the way, most interstate truck drivers and their vehicles are monitored 24/7 by onboard computers linked to GPS navigation units, so any illicit driving goes straight to their trucking company. Oh, there are independents that have to break the rules to make a living, but they are a dying breed.

    January 6, 2013 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Jim

    Been a paramedic since the 80's. Have fallen asleep while driving the ambulance. The hazards of 24 hour shifts.

    January 7, 2013 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. The Gas Man

    Id rather drive drunk than sleepy !!

    January 7, 2013 at 06:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. mikefoxman

    Someone was actually paid to gather this data and write this garbage.

    January 7, 2013 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Mahesh

    There's an old saying... I periodically sleep while driving on the road and the rumble strips on the road sides wake me up.

    January 7, 2013 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. ohhai

    I drive asleep. Straight up REM sleep. Don't worry; I have cruise control.

    January 7, 2013 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. toolmantim

    It is not just because people are "sleep deprived" that they fall asleep behind the wheel. I drive for a living. On a cold winters night, in a nice warm truck, it is very hard to stay awake and focused on driving. That seat can be very comfortable to sleep in.

    January 7, 2013 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. maryanakovalchuk

    Reblogged this on 2013 Memories and commented:
    This is actually true!!

    January 24, 2013 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. memoryfoammattresstopper1

    I suffered from onset insomnia and I read forever on the topic and realized that my issue was that I was restless and kept moving when i tried to get to sleep. I got a memory foam topper after reading about them on http://www.memoryfoammattresstopperhub.com and ending up falling asleep on average 3 times more.

    January 27, 2013 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. dailygrindonline

    As a coffee drinker and coffee blogger, I'd be curious to know whether coffee consumption reduces the risks associated with driving while sleep deprived. Of course, it depends on how much sleep deprivation we're talking about. If you haven't slept for 24 hours or more, I'd imagine that no amount of coffee is going to help very much. If your sleep deficit is based on four to six hours of sleep the previous night, a couple cups of coffee would probably be helpful. It all depends on the individual (and the coffee).

    February 6, 2013 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Jennifer Nicole Camp

    My grandmother had narcolepsy. She would just fall asleep while driving. Or doing anything for that matter. scary. i once saw a man shaving while driving.

    April 4, 2013 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Kela

    I try not to leave the house when I'm sleepy because I get irritable with the slightest thing. I'm so glad that my teenager finally has her license... if I'm already out and get tired, I make her drive!

    May 8, 2013 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. guptil

    Well said! That certainly proved Canada's stupid foreign policy and the minister shut his wide mouth after hearing all other countries attending the CHOGM. Canada is promoting terrorism to be a close ally to US. This is very wrong and they just want to grab the Tamil votes which are mostly Liberal.

    July 4, 2013 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply

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