Sleepiness causes more than 5,500 traffic deaths a year and is a factor in nearly 17 percent of all fatal crashes, according to a new analysis of federal data. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released data from 1999 through 2008 which found a much higher prevalence of drowsy driving in deadly crashes than earlier studies.
A 1994 study found it was a factor in 3.6 percent of fatal crashes, and the NHTSA has said it played a role in crashes 2-3 percent each year. AAA Foundation researchers determined the higher crash rate by extrapolating from crashes in which drowsy driving was confirmed as the cause to reach what they say is a more accurate estimate. Its analysis included a survey that found that 41 percent of drivers admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point, and one in 10 drivers said they had done so in the past year. According to the National Sleep Foundation, some warning signs that you are too tired to drive are if you have difficulty focusing, frequent blinking and/or heavy eyelids, trouble keeping your head up, drifting from your lane, inability to remember the last few miles or yawning repeatedly.
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