Share This Page

1 in 24 adults sleep, drive; CDC fears number higher

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 8:16 p.m.

NEW YORK — This could give you nightmares: One in 24 adults say they recently fell asleep while driving.

Health officials behind the study believe the number is probably higher, saying that some people don't realize 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 federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the CDC study released on Thursday, about 4 percent of 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 larger.

The study was conducted in 19 states and the District of Columbia from 2009-10.

CDC researchers found that 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 the Texas survey sample could have 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 the 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.

The symptoms should signal a driver to get off the road and rest, Wheaton said.

Even a brief moment of nodding off can be extremely dangerous, she said. 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 seven to nine hours of sleep each night, treating any sleep disorders and not drinking alcohol before driving.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.