THURSDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Driving drowsy is a major factor in traffic accidents and deaths in the United States, federal health officials reported Thursday.
Federal statistics state that 2.5 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes and 2 percent of crashes with non-fatal injuries involve drowsy driving.
But, data gathering methods make it difficult to estimate the actual number of accidents that involve drowsy drivers. In fact, some studies have estimated that between 15 percent and 33 percent of fatal crashes may involve sleepy drivers. And deaths and injuries are more likely in motor vehicle crashes that involve drowsy driving, the report stated.
According to the report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4 percent of drivers quizzed said they had driven while drowsy in the month before the survey.
"One out of 25 people reported falling asleep while driving in the past month," said CDC epidemiologist Anne Wheaton, the report's lead author. "If you think of how many cars you see every day, one out of 25 -- that's a pretty big number."
And those numbers may underestimate the scope of the problem, Wheaton said.
"These were people who realized they had fallen asleep while they were driving," she said. "If you fall asleep for even a moment you may not realize it -- so that's not even taking those people into account."
What's more, many people drive drowsy and don't fall asleep, but still pose a risk, Wheaton said.
"Driving while drowsy you are driving impaired. Your reaction time slows down, you're less attentive and it impairs your decision-making skills," she said. "So even if you don't fall asleep at the wheel, it's still a serious problem."
The report was published in the Jan. 4 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In the study, researchers found that people
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