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One in 25 People Fall Asleep while Driving, CDC Reports

Update Date: Jul 05, 2014 10:22 AM EDT

Driving is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths throughout the world. In a new federal report, researchers surveyed drivers about their behaviors over the past month. The team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that at least one in 25 American drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel.

"About 4 percent, or one in 25 people, reported falling asleep while driving in the month before the survey," said lead author Anne Wheaton, a CDC epidemiologist reported by Medical Xpress.

For this report, the researchers interviewed drivers from 10 states and Puerto Rico. They found that the majority of the people who drove while sleep deprived were younger than 25 and were males. These people were more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as binge drinking and driving without a seatbelt. On top of that, they were more likely to have sleeping problems as well.

The researchers calculated that around 7,500 fatal vehicle accidents occur every year due to drivers who got behind the wheel while sleep deprived. According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy drivers tend to have slower reaction time, impaired vision and poorer judgment. Due to the combination of these factors, experts and researchers stressed the importance of getting a good amount of sleep before driving.

"We do know that people are getting less sleep than they used to. You've got people who have really long commutes. And we think that the prevalence of sleep apnea is also increasing, because it tends to go along with obesity, and we know that that's increasing. So it's [drowsy driving] definitely not going down," Wheaton said.

The researchers added that in order to stay awake behind the wheel, drivers must pull over and take a break. Other methods, such as turning up the air conditioning, increasing the volume of the radio and opening the windows have not been proven to help combat drowsiness.

The study was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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