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The facts of drowsy driving

The USDOT doesn't know exactly how many car wrecks are caused by drowsy driving, but they estimate that 7 percent of all car wrecks in 2016 in the United States involve a drowsy driver.

They don't know the exact number because it can be difficult to tell when drowsiness is a factor in a wreck unless it's noted in the police report.

You can check out the stats for yourself on the CDC's website, but they aren't pretty. The high number of fatalities indicates that drowsy driving is a real concern. Drivers should take the time to educate themselves about the risks.

Does drowsiness affect your driving?

Believe it or not, driving after pulling an all-nighter can cause you to drive as if you have a blood-alcohol level above the .10 content level.

"...just missing two hours of sleep can quadruple a driver's crash risk," said Amy Stracke, Managing Director, Traffic Safety Advocacy for AAA - The Auto Club Group and Executive Director of the Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation in the 2017 news release.

Do people drive when they're drowsy?

The answer to that is yes - and more of them than you'd think.

Nearly 30 percent of drivers reported having driven "when they were so tired that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open" at least once during a 30 day period, according to a USDOT study published in 2017's "Asleep At the Wheel."

2.4 percent reported having done so "fairly often."

Research from a National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation study states that approximately 17 percent of lane-drifting crashes were attributed to incapacitation because a driver fell asleep.

Shift workers and commercial drivers were more likely to report driving drowsy due to the changing times of their commutes and long hauls, according to the CDC.

Young people between the age of 18 and 44 and young men, in particular, were more likely to report driving drowsy than their over-65-year-old counterparts.

What can you do if you have to drive while you're drowsy?

There's really only one solution for drowsy driving, and that's to get more sleep! The keys are to create a sleep sanctuary in your bedroom and develop good sleep hygiene. Your sleep sanctuary should be kept between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you need it warmer, try a cooling mattress pad. Good sleep hygiene consists of a consistent time for bed and a routine to tell your body when to sleep and wake up.

Unfortunately, there are times when you have to drive after a shortened night's sleep. There are two things you can do if you're feeling drowsy, or find that you can't remember the last few miles you've driven - have a caffeinated beverage and take a short nap.

If you can, you should drink the caffeinated beverage and then take a 15 to 30-minute nap. You'll wake up feeling refreshed and ready to get back on the road.

If you can only do one, the effectiveness of each depends on your age. For people over the age of 65, a caffeinated beverage is likely to be more effective. For people between the ages of 18 and 44, a nap is the better option of the two.

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Tuck.pngTuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.

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