Report: 1 in 4 drivers admit to driving while drowsy

SEATTLE -- Weekends and holidays give us time to sleep in, but most days do you feel like that alarm goes off too early?

That lack of sleep causes thousands of serious crashes.

Just within the last month, AAA found more than 1 out of every 4 drivers on the road (28%) admit to having a hard time keeping their eyes open. It's not surprising to Washington State Patrol Trooper Chris Webb: "You know, I think we live in a sleep-deprived community now."

And Webb points out it's not just a problem on road trips or at night. He said it's just as much an issue for people getting to work every morning.

"Probably a lot of people aren't getting that sleep that they probably need if they're getting up at 3 o'clock in the morning," Webb said.

Webb is an early to rise, early to work kind of a guy. He just recently spotted someone on his way in that all the signs of being drunk or in some way impaired.

"He had all the indicators; moving in and out of his lanes, slow speed, high speed. I get up and contact him and he thanked me because he was falling asleep," Webb said.

The State Patrol recorded more than 4,300 crashes caused by drowsy drivers since 2008, and 58 people died during that same time frame.

Who's the most likely to be out there sleeping at the wheel? AAA found that 1/3 of all drowsy drivers are aged 19-24.

"Driving while fatigued is dangerous because it slows reaction time, impairs vision and causes lapses in judgment, similar to driving drunk," said Peter Kissinger, with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "We know that people can't reliably predict when they are going to fall asleep, and a very fatigued driver may fall asleep for several seconds without even realizing it."

Experts say if you go 24 hours without sleep, you can be as impaired as driving over the legal limit for alcohol.

"Unsafe lane travel, not using signals, driving off the roadway, those are similarities and I don't think there's much differences as far as the danger part of it either," Webb said.

If you can't remember the last few miles you drove, your thoughts are wandering, or your head is heavy, Webb suggests you get off the road, find a safe parking lot and take a nap.

It is better to arrive late, than not arrive at all.

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