Nodding Off While Driving
January 3, 2013

CDC Finds 1 In 25 People Fall Asleep While Driving

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Driving is a dangerous business. In and of itself, the act of hurtling oneself down a strip of harsh pavement at upwards of 60 miles per hour can be pretty risky. Add to the equation other variables, such as weather or distractions, or even alcohol and cell phones, and we begin playing quite literally with danger.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently conducted a survey, discovering that as many as 1 in 25 American motorists have admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel.

Looking at previous data from the National Highway Traffic Safely Administration (NHTSA), some 2.5% of all fatal car crashes involve drowsy driving. Some data collection services claim this number is even higher, near the 15 to 33% range.

The CDC set out to find better data, asking motorists questions about their sleeping habits.

The survey was conducted through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) during 2009—2010 in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Of the 147,076 respondents in the survey, some 4.2% said they had fallen asleep while driving at least once in the last 30 days.

Those American adults who reported sleeping at most 6 hours a night were more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel than those who slept more or did not have an issue with dozing off in the middle of the day.

The participants were specifically asked "During the past 30 days, have you ever nodded off or fallen asleep, even just for a brief moment, while driving?"

Drowsy driving was then assessed when participants answered “yes” to the above question. Those who responded with “no,” or any other answer, such as “I don´t know” or “I don´t have a license” were not listed as drowsy drivers.

The participants were also asked if they had been receiving enough sleep that month and if they had found themselves dozing off in the middle of the day.

The CDC´s study also found that men were more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel than women, 5.3% to 3.2%.

The results show that drowsy drivers tend to be younger drivers. Motorists from 18- to 44-years old were 4.9% more likely to fall asleep while driving than their older counterparts.

Non-Hispanic whites were also found to be less likely to fall asleep than any other race. Non-Hispanic blacks and other races topped the list as the most likely to fall asleep while driving.

The survey also found that Texans were the most likely to fall asleep on the road than those from any other state.

Obviously it´s not only very important to abstain from driving when drowsy, but it´s also very important to be aware of other possible drowsy drivers on the road.

"If I'm on the road, I'd be a little worried about the other drivers," explained Anne Wheaton, the lead author of the study.

As for the results in Texas, Wheaton suggests that there may be a larger percentage of young, sleep deprived and apnea-suffering overweight people in Texas, thus boosting their chances of driving while drowsy.