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A new study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that one in every 24 American adults admits to falling asleep while driving at least once during the prior month. Experts believe that number is understated because many drivers do not realize that they have had a “micro-sleep”–lasting one or two seconds. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is blamed for more than 100,000 auto accidents, 40.000 injuries, and over 1,500 deaths every year in the United States.

After reading the results of the study, lead author Anne Wheaton of the CDC said “If I’m on the road, I’d be a little worried about the other drivers.” Nodding off behind the wheel for even a moment can be devastating considering that a vehicle traveling at 60 miles per hour will travel approximately 88 feet–about 4-5 car lengths in that moment.

The CDC study surveyed over 147,000 drivers in 19 states. The study found that men are more likely than women to fall asleep while driving. The study also found that drivers between the ages of 25 and 34 and individuals who regularly have less than six hours of sleep a night are most likely to doze off.

In a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, cameras and other sensors were placed in 100 automobiles for one year. From even this small number, researchers were able to postulate that driver sleepiness was a contributing factor in 20 percent of all auto accidents. The researchers concluded that a drowsy driver is four to six times more likely to be involved in a crash than a driver who is fully alert.

It can be difficult for law enforcement officers to detect a driver who is impaired from lack of sleep. New automotive technology is focused on alerting the drivers themselves. Some motor vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz and Lexus have programs to identify a driver that is becoming sleepy. Some of the programs focus on steering wheel inputs, while others aim cameras at the driver’s face. Most of these technologies flash an emblem on the instrument panel or sound an audible alert.

Ford has a drowsy driver alert that can be paired with the new Lane-Keeping Assist system available on its 2013 Fusion sedan. The system uses a forward facing camera to watch road markings and alerts the driving by steering wheel vibrations if the system senses that the vehicle is drifting out of its lane of travel.

For more information, contact the Ohio auto accident lawyers at Clark, Perdue & List.

Source: NBC News, “Automakers look to curb drowsy driving,” Paul A. Eisenstein, January 9, 2013.