Drowsy drivers may be causing Boston car accidents

Maybe this will be a wake-up call: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 24 adult drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel at least once in the last month.

The findings are the result of a survey conducted by the CDC in 19 states, as well as the District of Columbia. A total of 147,000 drivers were polled in the telephone survey.

Even more alarming, experts believe that the actual rates in Boston and nationally are much higher, because drivers sometimes nod off momentarily without realizing that they’ve fallen asleep. That can sharply increase the risk of car accidents — not just among drowsy drivers, but among other roadway occupants afflicted by this dangerous driving behavior.

According to researchers, drowsy driving was more common among men than women, and occurred at a higher rate among younger drivers than older ones.

The state with the worst drowsy driving rate is Texas, where six percent of drivers admitted to falling asleep at least once in the last month.

A major factor in these high rates of drowsy driving is a lack of sufficient sleep, according to experts. Drivers should be getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night before driving, but many don’t.

And it doesn’t take long for something to go wrong behind the wheel — when traveling at 60 miles per hour, it only takes one second of dozing to travel nearly 100 feet.

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.

Drivers should also avoid drinking alcohol before driving a vehicle.

Source: The Boston Globe, “CDC: 1 in 24 admit nodding off while driving,” Mike Stobbe, Jan. 3, 2012