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CDC study: drowsy driving and fatal car accidents on the rise

Government and industry statistics state that anywhere from 3 percent to 33 percent of fatal car accidents are caused by drowsy drivers. And Chicago drivers may be interested in a new Center for Disease Control study that found that 1 in 24 adult drivers in the U.S. said they had recently fell asleep while driving. That statistic alone is enough to give anyone nightmares, but when you add other statistics, including distracted driving and drunk driver-related car accidents, traveling on our nation's highways can be downright deadly.

The CDC study released this week included telephone surveys of 147,000 adults and was much larger than previous studies, which had similar results. The study reported about 4 percent of adults admitted to nodding off or falling sleep behind the wheel on at least one occasion in the previous month. The study was conducted in 2009 and 2010 and included 19 states and the District of Columbia. Anyone involved in a truck accident with a big rig or long haul trucker knows how dangerous drowsy driving can be.

Researchers in this latest study found that drowsy driving was more common in men and people between the ages of 25- to 34-years-old. People who average less than six hours of sleep a night were also more likely to admit nodding off behind the wheel. Another rather odd and unexplained statistic found that Texans were more likely to be drowsy drivers as well. Researchers thought the samples from the Texas survey may have included more young adults who were sleep-deprived or overweight adults who suffer from sleep-apnea.

For those who study the problem associated with drowsy drivers, the CDC study's results were not surprising. In fact, the numbers could actually be higher because some people do not realize they have nodded off for a second or two while driving. Doctors have long claimed many of us are not getting enough sleep making the problem of drowsy driving a serious one. Nodding off for a even a second while driving 60 miles per hour equates to speeding along an 88 foot stretch of highway.

As many Chicagoans know, car, truck and bus accidents often result in wrongful death and personal injury claims against the negligent driver who causes the accident. There are times when the cause is clear, such as texting or distracted driving and driving while intoxicated and other times drifting over that center line could be caused by simply being too tired to drive. That should give us all something to sleep on.

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

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