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One in Seven Young People Fall Asleep Behind the Wheel, Study Says

by on November 12, 2012

Government data shows that 100,000 crashes and 1,500 deaths every year are a direct result of driver fatigue. In order to combat this growing epidemic, the National Sleep Foundation and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety are joining forces to educate drivers on the dangers of drowsy driving.

Recognizing that sleeping behind the wheel can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, the National Sleep Foundation has declared Nov. 12-18 Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. According to recent data, being awake for more than 20 hours can have the same effect as having a 0.08 blood alcohol level behind the wheel. Drivers can also succumb to 3-4 seconds of microsleep without noticing it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, young people are the most likely to drive drowsy. One in seven people between the ages of 16 and 24 have fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once in the past year. This is compared to just one in ten drivers in the general population, according to a survey conducted by the AAA Foundation.

Not all sleepy drivers actually conk out behind the wheel. Most drivers (52 percent) admit they drive when they feel sleepy, and over one-third said they have done this in the past month.

Just like drunk driving, drowsy driving causes slower reaction times, lapses in judgement, and delays in information processing. It can also lead to vision impairment behind the wheel.

(Learn more about the dangers of distracted driving).

To avoid falling asleep behind the wheel, the National Sleep Foundation recommends taking naps, drinking two cups of coffee, and planning for driving breaks on long road trips. Traveling with a driving buddy can also ensure a safer trip on the road. Drivers should also avoid alcohol and medications that may cause drowsiness.

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