Wake-up call: Alarming number of motorists confess to drowsy driving

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(WASHINGTON) — Have you ever taken the wheel and found yourself nodding off?

A new study from AAA says there is roughly a two-in-five chance your answer would be “yes.”

An estimated 43 percent of U.S. drivers admitted to falling asleep or nodding off while driving at least once in their lifetime, according to the automotive service group’s survey findings released this week.

As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is attempting to wake up drivers across the nation, urging them not to take the wheel when low on sleep.

As part of the National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind Wednesday presented alarming facts and figures on the prevalence and danger of driving while fatigued or sleepy.

In opening remarks at the Asleep at the Wheel forum Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C., Rosekind estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 lives are lost each year in the United States because of drowsy driving.

The former NTSB board member revealed new statistics indicating an estimated 39.5 percent of major NTSB highway investigations between 2001 and 2012 identified fatigue as at least a contributing factor to the incident. When looking at all major NTSB investigations, 20 percent had a fatigue element to the investigation.

A 2010 AAA study estimates that one out of every six (16.5 percent) deadly traffic accidents is the result of drowsy driving, but new studies are narrowing down who exactly is at greater risk.

According to AAA’s new study, an Estimated 39.6 percent of drivers ages 19-24 reported struggling to keep their eyes open while driving at least once in the past month; making this age group among the most problematic.

A glance at all age groups shows 31.5 percent of drivers over the same time period were sleep-deprived.

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