Sleep deprivation affecting more people behind the wheel - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Sleep deprivation affecting more people behind the wheel

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If you're hitting the highway this holiday weekend, get plenty of rest. The number of wrecks caused by "drowsy driving" is going up.

The problem can strike drivers when they don't expect it.

State Trooper Curtis Summerville says, "The whole workforce is sleep deprived."

"Ultimately it's the driver's responsibility, but then a lot of these companies push people." Craig Jacobs has driven a truck 34 years. He says people fall asleep at the wheel every day.

"They doze off behind the wheel and leave the road and sometimes they wake up when they hit the rumble strip on the sides, sometimes they don't."

He's even helped someone. "His bike was lying on its side and he was over the guardrail, but it was because he was tired and dehydrated."

Trooper Summerville says when people fall asleep on the interstate. It's a serious problem right up there with texting and driving and dui.

"If you're driving 60 miles per hour and you shut your eyes for 3 seconds and fall asleep. You've driven the length of a football field asleep."

Summerville says some drivers sleep with their eyes open. It's called micro napping. Some drivers get "highway hypnosis." "This is when they focus on your tail lights."

He says the problem is getting worse because drivers think they can beat it.

Driver Robert Odom says, "It's happen to me once or twice. You see it as you can make it another mile, but you know you fell asleep because you're so tired, your eyes just close."

Summerville says, "I've often heard people say this, if I let my window down, slap water on my face, turn my radio on,  I'm fine, well you're not fine."

The best advice - don't chance it. Stop often and pull over to somewhere safe for a nap, but not along the interstate. Another driver could be falling asleep too.

It's also good of course to have a second person in the car.. to keep you alert or take over.