Teens and young adults are more likely to drive while drowsy than older drivers, according to a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
One in seven drivers ages 16 to 24 admits to having nodded of at least once while driving in the past year, compared to one in 10 of all licensed drivers who confessed to falling asleep behind the wheel during the same period.
The findings are similar to those in a 2010 AAA Foundation study of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash data, which estimated drivers ages 16 to 24 were 78 percent more likely to be drowsy at the time of a crash than drivers ages 40 to 59. The same analysis found that one in six deadly crashes involve a drowsy driver, making it one of the leading contributors to traffic accidents.
According to the most recent AAA Foundation survey, most people believe drowsy drivers are a threat to their personal safety. Yet 30 percent of licensed drivers reported having driven in the past 30 days when they were so tired they struggled to keep their eyes open.
"Unfortunately, most drivers underestimate the risks associated with drowsy driving and overestimate their ability to deal with it -- that's a dangerous combination," AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger said in a press statement.
Driving while sleepy or fatigued can slow down reaction times, impair vision and cause lapses in judgement. Signs include:
- Trouble remembering the last miles driven or missing exits and traffic signs
- Difficulty keeping eyes open and focused
- Yawning frequently or rubbing eyes repeatedly
- Drifting from the lane or off the road
- Daydreaming or having wandering, disconnected thoughts
AAA urges motorists who experience any drowsy driving symptoms to stop driving and find a safe place to pull over.