Drowsy driving: Falling asleep behind the wheel - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Drowsy driving: Falling asleep behind the wheel


Here's some information that could give you nightmares: A recent study from the CDC shows, one in 24 adults admit to falling asleep while they were driving.  Health officials say that number is probably higher because some people probably don't realize that they have nodded off. 

That's a scary statistic that Charisma LaRue can identify with.   

"I was driving home, I remember the sun was shining, it was a pretty day, the middle of the day and I was going across the Skyline on 79 and I fell asleep," she said.   

It took only a few seconds for LaRue to go from the road to a ravine.  

"My car went off the road and when my tires hit the roughness I woke up in time to see a mailbox and so I am plowing into the mailbox I just kind of closed my eyes and held on to the wheel until the car came to a stop," LaRue said.  "They told me later I flipped the car three times into the ravine."

LaRue said she didn't get much sleep the night before her 2002 car crash. A mistake doctors say many people make.  They suggest adults catch between six to nine hours of sleep a night. If you don't, it increases the amount of yawning and blinking you do. You're also more likely to miss your exit or drift into another lane. 

Doctors say if you are experiencing any of these warning signs to pull over to rest or change drivers.  They say turning up the radio or opening the window are not effective ways to keep you alert. 

The CDC study said drivers who don't get enough sleep and drivers with untreated sleep disorders are more likely to drive drowsy. 

Decatur dentist Dr. Randall Sandlin said he has treated a lot of people with the common sleep disorder, sleep apnea.  He says he has even had patients come into his office for treatment after falling asleep behind the wheel. 

"Drivers with untreated sleep apnea are in effect drunk drivers," he said.  "That's pretty scary when you think about it because there are over 5-million drivers out there with untreated sleep apnea."

In 2010 Alabama state troopers said they saw 30 fatal crashes where sleep, fainting, or fatigue was involved.  In 2011, 27 crashes.  LaRue said she is sharing her story because she lived to tell about her experience with just a few scratches, but not everyone gets that chance.

"When you fall asleep it's not just you that you're putting at risk, it's everyone else on the road," she said.  "If you're feeling tired, pull over and take a quick nap or just don't drive.  Some of us are really lucky but it's not always that way."

CDC researchers found drowsy driving was more common in men, people ages 25 to 34, those who averaged less than six hours of sleep a night and for some unknown reason, Texans.

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