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Too much partying? Young drivers more likely to fall asleep at wheel

December 21, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
(DANIEL HULSHIZER / AP )

Young drivers are the most likely to drive while drowsy, according to a AAA safety study.

One in seven licensed drivers age 16-24 admitted to having nodded off at least once while driving in the past year as compared with one in 10 of all licensed drivers who confessed to falling asleep during the same period, the auto club said.

“Research shows that fatigue impairs safe driving, with many symptoms causing drivers to behave in ways similar to those who are intoxicated,” said Robert Darbelnet, AAA’s chief executive.

The auto club found that while eight out of 10 people view drowsy drivers as a serious threat to their own safety, many admit to driving while extremely drowsy themselves. AAA said 30% of licensed drivers reported having driven in the past 30 days when they were so tired that they struggled to keep their eyes open.

The data mirror a 2010 AAA analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash data that estimates that young drivers age 16-24 were more likely, by some 78%, to be drowsy at the time of the crash than drivers age 40-59. This earlier analysis also revealed that one in six deadly crashes involved a drowsy driver, making it one of the leading contributors to traffic crashes.

Some of the common signs of driving drowsy include having trouble remembering the last miles driven or missing exits and traffic signs, difficulty keeping eyes open, yawning frequently or drifting from your lane or off the road.

Automakers are starting to address some of those issues. Several companies are equipping vehicles that chime an alert or vibrate the driver’s seat when a vehicle starts to drift across a lane marker.

Mercedes-Benz has a system that senses driving patterns when someone sits down behind the wheel and looks for deviations that might indicate drowsy driving later in the trip. It sounds a chime and flashes an alert on the dashboard.

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