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Drowsiness among major factors in road accidents

Although drunken driving and speeding often result in car and truck collisions, drowsiness while driving is just as dangerous. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one of every 24 drivers admitted to recently dozing off while driving, a factor that could be an element in some truck accidents. The CDC study included participants in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration similarly estimates that 2.5 percent of fatal crashes and 2 percent of injury crashes involve drowsy driving -- and the NHTSA considers these to be conservative estimates.

A nationwide study conducted over six years found that drowsy drivers were responsible for approximately 1,300 accidents in Tennessee alone.

The CDC report notes that drowsiness makes drivers less attentive, slows their reaction time and impairs their ability to make instant decisions. Drowsiness seems to be more common among people who have less than six hours of sleep each night. This is frequently the case for many long-haul truck drivers and other operators of large tractor-trailers as well as adolescents, who typically need 9 to 10 hours of sleep per night.

Signs of drowsiness include yawning or blinking eyes frequently, trouble remembering the past few miles driven, missing an exit, drifting from a lane and hitting a rumble strip.

Drowsiness while driving has become a major concern for Tennessee Highway Patrol officers because of the dangers it poses. One patrol lieutenant suggests that drivers can always pull over when they feel tired or drowsy and take a 15-minute rest or nap or get out and walk around their vehicle.

Safety officials believe that drivers are the best ones to address this problem effectively by getting enough rest or sleep and avoiding medication before they get behind the wheel.

Source: WBBJ Eyewitness News, "Drowsy Drivers Causing More Wrecks," Cyndi Lundeberg, Jan. 3, 2013

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