tired drivingNew drowsy driving data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasize the importance of seeking treatment for an ongoing sleep illness such as sleep apnea, reports the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

In the largest survey ever to examine the topic of drowsy driving, the CDC found that 4.2% of 147,076 respondents reported having fallen asleep while driving at least one time during the previous 30 days. Men were more likely to report drowsy driving than women. Statistical analysis found that sleeping for 6 hours or less per night and self-reported snoring each was related independently to drowsy driving.

“Drowsy driving is a serious risk to personal health and public safety, and snoring is an important warning sign that should not be ignored, said AASM President Sam Fleishman, MD. “Loud and frequent snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep illness that often causes excessive daytime sleepiness.”

The CDC analysis involved data from a set of questions about insufficient sleep administered through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) during 2009-2010. US adults in 19 states and the District of Columbia were surveyed.

The CDC encouraged drivers to seek treatment for sleep disorders and noted that the actual prevalence of drowsy driving is likely to be higher. Drivers often are unaware that they have fallen asleep behind the wheel. The survey also excluded teens, who have a high risk of drowsy driving.

The public health implications of drowsy driving are clear: The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that more than 16% of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver.

To promote awareness of drowsy driving, the AASM released a free online presentation describing the signs, causes, and effects of driver fatigue and some strategies to manage it. SAFE-D: Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue Education for Drivers is available at www.aasmnet.org/safed.aspx. The presentation also is on YouTube and Vimeo to share or embed.