Driving drowsy a bigger issue than once thought

Driving drowsy a bigger issue than once thought
(Source: AAA)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A new study says drowsy driving is far more common and dangerous than we know.

Federal statistics cite fatigue for about 1 to 2 percent of crashes nationwide, but new numbers from AAA state it's more like 10 percent.

Only getting four hours of sleep a night could be similar to driving drunk.

Government figures show 35 percent of U.S. drivers don't get the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep every night. That's a huge concern for drivers of big rigs on the road.

Truck driver, Tony Squire has been handling big rigs since he could reach the brakes and see over the wheel. He told Tucson News Now drivers are heavily regulated and their sleep scheduled are often calculated.

"We're only allowed a certain amount of time to drive," said Squire.

Most truckers know better than to take the wheel when they haven't had enough sleep.

John Hammond, a truck driver from Texas said, "You've got to look out for everybody. You've got to watch for everyone. I have to watch for myself, but I have to watch for everyone else as well."

Not everyone has an employer holding them accountable, though. It could be why AAA recently released a report with the number of sleepy drivers skyrocketing in the fast lane.

Originally 1 to 2 percent, now nearly 10 percent of crashes nationwide can be blamed on drowsy drivers. Thousands of those accidents happened here in Arizona.

Squire told TNN what he looks for to play it safe as a defensive truck driver.

"You'll always see cars swerving, not driving in their lane, driving too slow," he said.

Truckers only have moments to react.

AAA sampled thousands of drivers for this new study, recording them in their cars for a few years. They found hundreds of drivers struggling to keep their eyes open minutes before a crash.

Prompting this warning from big rigs, they hope drivers pump the brakes on this habit before they hurt themselves or anyone else.

"If you're tired pull over, there's nothing more important than staying alive. You never need to get somewhere that fast," said Squire.

Another thing to keep in mind, no amount of caffeine can keep you up when you're feeling sleepy behind the wheel. The only real solution is to get a proper snooze.

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