Drivers are urged not to drink and drive as this puts them and their passengers at risk of road accidents. However, alcohol isn't the only factor that could lead to crashes -- sleepy drivers also pose danger. Unfortunately, it appears that drowsy driving is not uncommon in the United States.

A new government survey found that one in 25 drivers in the U.S. fell asleep while driving at least once during the past 30 days. In a report published in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on July 4, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist Anne Wheaton and colleagues surveyed 92,102 individuals in Alaska, California, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee and Puerto Rico as part of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Excluding the 5,575 respondents who said that they do not drive or did not have a driver's license, the researchers found that over 3,600, or more than 4 percent of the respondents, have fallen asleep while driving during the prior month. Extrapolating the prevalence of drowsy driving based on the results of the survey; the researchers said that there were about 1.8 million drowsy drivers in the last 30 days.

While falling asleep behind the wheel is obviously dangerous, the researchers said that drowsiness also poses risks as it impairs a person's ability to drive safely. The researchers cited studies that found drowsy drivers tend to take longer to react, are less attentive of their surrounding and have impaired decision-making abilities that can lead to vehicle crashes. Drowsy crashes tend to occur when drivers who lack sleep are the most tired at night or during the midafternoon.

The researchers have likewise found that individuals who are likely to have accidents while driving drowsy are those below 25 years old, males, individuals who binge drink, those who do not wear seat belts, people with sleep problems and those who often sleep fewer than five hours at night.

Wheaton said that there are as many as 7,500 fatal vehicular accidents in the U.S. that are possibly caused by drowsy driving per year. Along with her colleagues, she urged drivers to refrain from driving when they feel sleepy.

"Drivers are advised to get off the road and rest until no longer drowsy, or change drivers if they experience these symptoms," the researchers wrote. "Turning up the radio, opening the window, and turning up the air conditioner have not proven to be effective techniques to stay awake."

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