More Than Half of U.S. Men Have Dozed Off at the Wheel

More than half of U.S. men say they’ve dozed off while driving, and twice as many men as women have struggled to stay awake at the wheel in the past year, an American Automobile Association study found.

The AAA’s traffic-safety foundation is studying driving-while-tired, which may be linked to about one-in-six fatal crashes, to figure out how to stem the practice. About 13 percent of men and 6.5 percent of women reported falling asleep while driving in the past year, even as 96 percent of drivers surveyed said they frown on drowsy driving, the foundation said.

“Despite the almost universal disapproval among the motoring public of those who drive when they have trouble keeping their eyes open, the practice is alarmingly common,” AAA said in the report. “Interventions are necessary to decrease drowsy driving crashes.”

A bus crash that killed 15 people returning to New York City from a casino last year was probably caused by driver fatigue, the National Transportation Safety Board said in June. NTSB investigators said that the bus driver had almost no opportunity to sleep the day before the accident. The driver was acquitted of manslaughter and negligent homicide and found guilty of one count of aggravated unlicensed driving, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.

“A safe and well-rested driver is a key safety factor and can be, as we have seen too many times, the crucial difference between an uneventful trip and a tragic one,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said earlier this year.

Nodding Off

Drivers should get adequate sleep before taking the wheel and regulators and employers should set standards to help avoid fatigue, NTSB said in a 2011 statement.

Reports of tired driving generally decline with age, AAA found. About 15 percent of U.S. motorists ages 16 to 24 reported falling asleep or nodding off at the wheel in the past year, while 5.7 percent of 60- to 74-year-olds and 4.1 percent of those over 75 said they had done so. The rate was 9.7 percent among all drivers.

The data come from 3,303 respondents who reported having a valid licenses and driving in the past 30 days, the foundation said. The survey was conducted in September.

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