Drowsy driving is a real danger

Here’s an eye-opening statistic: One in 24 Georgia adults report they recently fell asleep while driving.

A CDC report on drowsy driving, released Thursday, said Georgia’s average of 4.1 percent is similar to the nation’s average of 4.2 percent of adults who said they fell asleep at least once while driving in the previous month.

The results are from a survey of 147,000 adults in 19 states –- including Georgia — in 2009 and 2010. State-level prevalence ranged from 2.5 percent in Oregon to 6.1 percent in Texas.

Earlier studies reached a similar conclusion, but the CDC survey was far larger, the Associated Press reported.

Fatalities and injuries are more likely in motor vehicle crashes that involve drowsy driving compared with non-drowsy-driving crashes, the CDC said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 2.5 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes and 2.0 percent of all crashes with non­fatal injuries involve drowsy driving. But some modeling studies have estimated that up to one-third of fatal crashes may involve drowsy drivers, the CDC said. Determining all the factors in a fatal crash is not always possible.

Inadequate sleep is a major factor in drowsy driving, the report found. Reports of falling asleep while driving were more common among adults who reported usually sleeping 6 hours per day or less, snoring, or unintentionally falling asleep during the day.

Bob Wilson, director of field operations for the National Safety Council, told GHN on Thursday that one contributing factor to drowsy driving is the tough economy, which is causing many people to “burn the candle at both ends’’ by holding down multiple jobs.

Others are getting less sleep because of their inability to turn off electronic devices at night before going to bed, Wilson added.

When feeling sleepy, drivers should take short breaks, get out of the car and walk around, and eat a snack “rather than pushing it,’’ Wilson said. Napping at a rest area is also a good idea, he added. Rest areas that are busy and well monitored are considered safest.

The CDC report said that men were more likely to report drowsy driving than women. Drowsy driving prevalence decreased with age, with just 1.7 percent of people 65 and older reporting falling asleep at the wheel recently, the study found.

Wilson said seniors may take quicker trips and not have as tough commutes as younger people, Plus, older people “may be more wise’’ to the hazards of drowsy driving, he said.