Washington, DC, November 20 – About one-half of adult drivers – 51% or about 100 million people – say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, and almost two in 10, (17% or 32 million people), have actually fallen asleep at the wheel, according to the National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) 2002 Sleep in America poll. One percent – approximately two million drivers –admits they have had an accident because they dozed off or were too tired to drive.
Who is at risk?
- Sleep related crashes are most common in young people, especially men, adults with children and shift workers. According to the NSF's 2002 poll:
- Adults between 18-29 are much more likely to drive while drowsy compared to other age groups (71% vs. 30-64, 52% vs. 65+, 19%).
- Men are more likely than women to drive while drowsy (56% vs. 45%) and are almost twice as likely as women to fall asleep while driving (22% vs. 12%).
- Adults with children in the household are more likely to drive drowsy than those without children (59% vs. 45%).
- Shift workers are more likely than those who work a regular daytime schedule to drive to or from work drowsy at least a few days a month (36% vs. 25%).
- Sleep deprivation increases the risk of a sleep-related crash; the less people sleep, the greater the risk.
- According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in such a crash as those sleeping 8 hours or more, while people sleeping less than 5 hours increased their risk four to five times.
- A study by researchers in Australia showed that being awake for 18 hours produced impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours; .08 is considered legally drunk.
- Other research indicates commercial drivers and people with undiagnosed sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and acute insomnia are also at greater risk for fall asleep crashes.