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The dangers of drowsy driving: Who is most at risk?

If you’ve had a few cocktails, you will probably think twice before getting behind the wheel. But what if you’ve only gotten four hours of sleep the night before? Or you’ve worked 65 hours in one week? Or you just started taking a new medication with drowsiness as a side effect?

Most people in California will not think twice before getting behind the wheel under those circumstances. Unfortunately, when fatigued drivers are on the road, the risk of an accident is serious for everyone. 

Based on data from the Sleep in America poll — conducted by the National Sleep Foundation — around 168 million Americans report that they have driven a vehicle when they were drowsy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, certain groups of people are most likely to drive when drowsy. For instance, truck drivers — who routinely drive long distances at a time — may often suffer from fatigue when behind the wheel. In addition, individuals who work at night or have long shifts are more likely to be drowsy drivers.

The CDC also reports that adults suffering from sleep disorders — like sleep apnea — who do not have a treatment regimen to keep the effects under control are at risk of driving when tired.

Finally, those who do not sleep enough each night and those who take medications that can make them drowsy are at risk of causing a collision. The National Institutes of Health suggests that adults should get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night to be fully rested.

If you think you may be at risk of drowsy driving, the safest bet is to stay off the road until you have gotten some rest.

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