A new report released today gives a startling new look at the growing threat of drowsy drivers on the road, urging Americans to just get some sleep.
With an estimated 83.6 million Americans admitting to sleeping less than the recommended daily seven to eight hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) said today that puts one in four drivers at risk of falling sleep at the wheel.
"It's a much bigger problem than we realized," said the GHSA's Jonathan Adkins. "We're not just drowsy. We're literally falling asleep, comatose, behind the wheel and we're crashing and we're hurting ourselves and killing ourselves and others. ... It's a serious safety problem."
In a report that included research from the American Automobile Association (AAA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the GHSA revealed that an average of 328,000 drowsy-driving crashes occurred on U.S. roads annually.
Of those crashes, the report found that 109,000 caused injuries and 6,400 of those crashes led to death.
"We're not just drowsy. We're literally falling asleep, comatose, behind the wheel."
Adkins likened a sleepy person's impairment while driving to being drunk behind the wheel.
"Your judgment isn't what it should be and your reaction time isn't what it should be," he said.
The GHSA also found that teenagers and young adults were involved in more than half of all drowsy-driving crashes annually. The report pointed to driving inexperience as well biological changes as possible causes.
In 2015 alone, the report said, drowsy driving killed 5,000 in related crashes.
Adkins said today that drowsy driving was a sign of the times, in which Americans are working too hard, not taking breaks or relaxing, and never allowing their minds to shut down.
"You really have to get that eight hours of sleep," he said.
Just this May, a delivery truck on a Nashville, Tennessee, highway was captured on cellphone camera weaving in and out of a lane. It ended up hitting another vehicle, losing control and causing an eight-car pileup. No serious injuries were reported, despite a massive blaze on the road. The driver in that crash was reportedly cited with fatigue.
The issue also costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $109 billion every year, not including the cost of property damage, today's report found.
This year, the NTSB put fatigue on its list of "most-wanted transportation safety improvements."
Experts shared the following tips to stay awake while driving:
1. Keep the radio on.
2. Open the window to get some air.
3. Make sure to stop during long drives.