Nodding off behind the wheel is commonly known to be dangerous and potentially fatal. A new report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a stark reminder of just how dangerous driving while drowsy can be.
When a person is driving and they are sleep deprived, their reactions are slower, they observe less of what is happening around them, and they do not make decisions as quickly or as wisely. It is often compared to driving while drunk and it turns out that this comparison is not unfair.
In the United States there are an average of 33,000 fatal car accidents each year. The CDC reports that out of these, 7,500 are the result of drowsy driving, which is not much less than the 10,322 that are the result of drunk driving.
To gather data for the report, the CDC conducted phone interviews that asked questions about driving, drinking, smoking and seat belt habits of 92,000 people in 10 different states. They asked the question, “During the past 30 days, have you ever nodded off or fallen asleep, even just for a brief moment, while driving?”
More than four percent answered that they had nodded off behind the wheel at least once in the last 30 days.
According to the CDC, men are more likely to drive while drowsy than women. Those who frequently drive without seat belts or who binge drink often are also more likely to drive while drowsy. Young men are considered the highest risk group for this behavior.
Crashes from drowsy driving are most likely to occur in the mid afternoon or late at night, when most people are naturally the drowsiest. There is also a reported significant difference in the rates of drowsiness during driving between those who have had five hours of sleep and those who have had six or seven.