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About 4 percent of U.S. drivers said they fell asleep w... About 4 percent of U.S. drivers said they fell asleep while driving in the past month (Credit: Getty Images).
This could give you nightmares: 1 in 24 U.S. adults say they recently fell asleep while driving.

And health officials behind the study think the number is probably higher. That's because some people don't realize it when they nod off for a second or two behind the wheel.

"If I'm on the road, I'd be a little worried about the other drivers," said the study's lead author, Anne Wheaton of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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In the CDC study released Thursday, about 4 percent of U.S. adults said they nodded off or fell asleep at least once while driving in the previous month. Some earlier studies reached a similar conclusion, but the CDC telephone survey of 147,000 adults was far larger. It was conducted in 19 states and the District of Columbia in 2009 and 2010.

CDC researchers found drowsy driving was more common in men, people ages 25 to 34, those who averaged less than six hours of sleep each night, and - for some unexplained reason - Texans.

Wheaton said it's possible the Texas survey sample included larger numbers of sleep-deprived young adults or apnea-suffering overweight people.

Most of the CDC findings are not surprising to those who study this problem.

"A lot of people are getting insufficient sleep," said Dr. Gregory Belenky, director of Washington State University's Sleep and Performance Research Center in Spokane.

The government estimates that about 3 percent of fatal traffic crashes involve drowsy drivers, but other estimates have put that number as high as 33 percent.

Warning signs of drowsy driving: Feeling very tired, not remembering the last mile or two, or drifting onto rumble strips on the side of the road. That signals a driver should get off the road and rest, Wheaton said.

Even a brief moment nodding off can be extremely dangerous, she noted. At 60 mph, a single second translates to speeding along for 88 feet - the length of two school buses.

To prevent drowsy driving, health officials recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, treating any sleep disorders and not drinking alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

Drowsy Driving Becoming More Common & Dangerous


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  • 81 Comments
      Shannon Ciafardo
      • 2 Years Ago
      When I worked overnights, I fell asleep for a second on my way home one morning. I woke up on the other side of the road, with a dump truck heading towards me. I believe I probably woke up to him honking his horn at me. I quit my job that day, it wasn't worth killing myself over.
      teecee656
      • 2 Years Ago
      I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in his sleep. Not like his passengers.. yelling and screaming.
      dukie97
      • 2 Years Ago
      Also get your thyroid checked. I was falling asleep on the way to work (and also nodding off at my desk). I once fell asleep at a stop light. That scared me enough to go the doctor- I had hypothyroidism. A pill once a day now and I don't feel drowsy during the day. I guess it is just best to get a thorough physical if you are feeling tired enough to fall asleep during the day.
      Vinny
      • 2 Years Ago
      Driving 70,000 a year for a couple of decades I clearly remember only one time when I actually fell soundly asleep while driving that couldn't be described as anything else. It was on the Florida Turnpike close to Yee Haw Junction on my way to Fort Pierce and it was EXTREMELY scary. The Florida Turnpike is probably one of the most boring highways to drive on in the US. Straight and level with no distractions but the wind and tire noise so it can put one to sleep from sheer boredom. I tried the usual attempts drivers make to keep awake. Opening all the windows and the sun-roof. Sticking one's head out the window. Playing loud music. Dropping the seat back all the way down. Deliberately driving on the 'washboards' on the emergency lanes. Aiming to hit every reflector for the inext mile. Some worked, most didn't. The worst time was when I REALLY fell asleep and woke up when the car was on the grass verge close to a water filled drainage ditch that ran alongside the Turnpike. It was part way down the ditch embankment and leaning heavily toward the ditch and still travelling at nearly 70 MPH. I manage to steer it back to the emergency lane and brought it to a stop. I couldn't force myself to look in the rear view mirror for over five minutes. I imagined that I would see total mayhem behind me with cars in the ditch and upside down and fires starting. i had no idea of how long I hade slept. Fortunately, the Florida Turnpike isn't a heavily used highway so there were no cars in sight in any direction.. My rental car wasn't visually damaged, but I was probably in a state of shock thinking of what might have been. After that one 'come to Jesus' incident I changed my driving habits forever . Now I stop at EVERY rest area, sit at a picnic table, have a coffee or water and 'take five' before I get back on the highway. Many rest areas have been closed here in the South because of the cost, but I still pull over at them because what happened once, CAN happen again and with far greater consquences.
      chuckl4826
      • 2 Years Ago
      1 in 24.... I'll take those odds over all the inattentive texting/cell phone jaw flappers anyday..!
      markcartermc
      • 2 Years Ago
      How much did the alcohol lobby pay for this report? Yes there needs to be a warning label on alcohol. Alcohol kills brain cells. It attacks the learned behavior centers of the brain. Walking, talking, driving and yes morals are impaired. If you drink and drive you could kill someone maybe even yourself. Not to mention that alcohol is a narcotic. The taxes on alcohol need to be quadrupled. The cost to the tax payers just for law enforcement is staggering. Not to mention it is the biggest drain on health care and all insurances.
        jdhegnes
        • 2 Years Ago
        @markcartermc
        Better yet, adopt the dui system that the intelligent Scandanavian countries have. In Norway, you lose your car, a wad of money, and you go to jail. And, it gets exponentially worse for repeat offenders. So guess what happens very infrequently in Norway - dui's, and what almost never happens - dui fatalities. It's simply a matter of caring enough to get our legislators to resist the lucrative rewards of the alcohol lobby. Get someone to introduce a bill, then publish who votes against it.
      • 2 Years Ago
      OK, Now they us how many fatal accidents are caused due to people talking on their cell phone while driving. My Sister was killed in such an accident.
      Mike H.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I developed sudden and overwhelming sleepiness in my older model Toyota. At about the same time, I would notice an unusual smell in the cabin when I was stopped in traffic and the vent system was set to outside air. Went to muffler shop. They showed me raw oil dripping from bad valve cover gaskets and down onto exhaust components and even the frame. New gaskets, no more sleepiness. More than once I would nod off for several seconds (at 60 MPH, one travels 88 feet in a second). Four seconds is over 117 yards ! Check your engine for oil leaks !
      papcollins
      • 2 Years Ago
      Modern cars are so silent and ride so comfortably they sort of lull one to sleep. Open a window once in a while for noise and fresh air.
      Karen
      • 2 Years Ago
      If you find yourselve getting sleepy while driving, suck on a sucker..like a Tootsie Roll Pop. I had friend tell me this after she tried everything from coffee, to ******* a piece of candy. Nothing worked until she tried a sucker, and darn it all, it worked. I now keep extra suckers in the car, and it absolutely works. Don't know why this works over just ******* on a piece of candy, but it does.
      bdgrizcp
      • 2 Years Ago
      Stop texting and turn the radio on. Loud.
      Bill
      • 2 Years Ago
      This seems like a good place to advertise 5 hour energy supplement. Driving yourself to an early heart attack is much better than falling asleep at the wheel.
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