1 In 24 Adults Admit Nodding Off Behind Wheel

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NEW YORK (AP) — 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.

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.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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