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Drunk or Drowsy?

Tired Drivers are as Inattentive as Drunk Drivers

Nearly nine out of every ten police officers responding to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Internet survey reported they had stopped a driver who they believed was drunk, but turned out to be drowsy. The survey was coordinated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has provided some estimates on the scope of the drowsy driving problem in the past.

According to NHTSA data, up to 100,000 police-reported crashes annually involve drowsiness or fatigue as a principal causal factor . That accounts for 1.5 percent of all crashes. At least 71,000 people are injured in fall-asleep crashes each year and a conservative estimate of annual related fatalities is 1,500. NHTSA estimates the monetary losses each year as result of these crashes represent $12.5 billion. Mounting evidence suggests the numbers are much higher and new estimates are expected.

Additional survey responses revealed:

· 89 percent of police officers agreed that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving,
· 93 percent of police officers believed drowsy driving is a serious problem,
· 93 percent agreed that drowsy driving is a serious problem for passenger car drivers,
· 97 percent agreed that drowsy driving is a serious problem for commercial drivers,
· 95 percent agreed that drivers who cause a crash because they are fatigued should be charged with a driving violation, and
· 96 percent agreed that more education is needed to inform drivers about the dangers of drowsy driving.

"Through releasing the results of our drowsy driving survey, we hope to raise public awareness on this important issue," noted Peter Kissinger, President and CEO, of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

"The AAA Foundation's free brochure, "Wake Up!," available on-line, helps drivers by providing tips to understand the symptoms and risks associated with drowsy driving which are key to avoiding it."

"Promoting safe, healthy sleep practices to avoid drowsy driving is necessary to decrease its occurrence. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) created , which provides information on how to recognize signs of drowsy driving and effective countermeasures, " said Richard Gelula, NSF's CEO.

"Through our site, we are spreading the word about the importance of sleep and being alert behind the wheel. We also debunk the effectiveness of remedies people often associate with helping them stay awake when driving such as rolling the window down or turning up the volume of the radio."

To drive alert and arrive alive, the AAA Foundation suggests:

· Not driving when you are sleepy

· Stopping driving if you become sleepy while on the road. Drink a caffeinated beverage.

· Since it takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream, take a 20-30 minute nap while you're waiting for the caffeine to take effect.

· Getting plenty of sleep (>6 hours) the night before a long trip

· Not planning to work all day and then drive all night

· Traveling at times when you are normally awake, and staying overnight rather than driving straight through.

· Avoiding sleepy times of day. Take a mid-afternoon nap and find a place to sleep between midnight and 6 a.m.

· Traveling with an awake passenger

· Scheduling a break every two hours or every 100 miles

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is an independent, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization established in 1947 by the American Automobile Association. The AAA Foundation's mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce te impact when they do occur.

(Source: AAA)