Darien, IL – A highway collision that left comedian Tracy Morgan in critical condition and killed his mentor is shedding light on the tragic consequences of drowsy driving, which causes more than 100,000 crashes and 1,550 deaths on American roads each year. The tragedy is a reminder that healthy sleep is essential for driver alertness and roadway safety.

“Drowsy driving is a threat to personal health and public safety – it’s just as dangerous as drunk driving,” said Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). “Similar to the effects of alcohol, drowsiness impacts alertness and response time, making it difficult to drive safely.”

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that 4.2 percent of drivers in the U.S. report having fallen asleep while driving at least one time during the previous 30 days. However, this is not a new trend. According to a recent report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, an estimated 16.5 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. from 1999-2008 involved a fatigued driver.

“Rolling down the windows or turning up the music will do little to increase your alertness while driving,” added Dr. Morgenthaler. “You can drink coffee for a short-term energy boost, but if you catch yourself drifting into other lanes or nodding off, it’s absolutely time to pull over and take a nap. There is no substitute for sleep.”

The AASM recommends that you pull over or have another passenger take the wheel if you experience any of the following warning signs of drowsy driving:
• You keep yawning or are unable to keep your eyes open.
• You catch yourself “nodding off” and have trouble keeping your head up.
• You can’t remember driving the last few miles.
• You end up too close to cars in front of you.
• You miss road signs or drive past your turn.
• You drift into the other lane of traffic.
• You drift onto the “rumble strip” or onto the shoulder of the road.

For more information on preventing drowsy driving, visit sleepeducation.org.

About the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Established in 1975, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) is the leader in setting standards and promoting excellence in sleep medicine. With nearly 9,000 members, the AASM improves sleep health and promotes high quality patient centered care through advocacy, education, strategic research, and practice standards.

Contact: Katie Hatcher, L.C. Williams & Associates, 800/837-7123 or 312/565-3900, khatcher@lcwa.com