Drowsy driving a leading cause of Ohio crashes

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Injuries from crashes blamed on drowsy driving are on the rise in Ohio, according to a newspaper analysis of state statistics.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety found that 1,415 injury crashes last year in Ohio were attributed to drivers falling asleep, being tired or fainting, The Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/I2sO6P ) reported Tuesday.

That was up 7 percent from 2011 and up 13 percent from 2010.

More than one in 25 Americans admits to recently falling asleep while driving, and drowsy driving is one of the leading causes of injury crashes in Ohio, according to the newspaper. Experts say it can be nearly as dangerous as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

So far this year, six fatal crashes and 869 injury crashes in Ohio have been attributed to fatigue, falling asleep or fainting, the state said. And that covers only crashes where the causes were determined.

"Driving while fatigued is dangerous because it slows reaction time, impairs vision and causes lapses in judgment, similar to driving drunk," said Peter Kissinger of 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," he said.

The foundation says more than one in four motorists say they have been so tired while driving in the past month that they had troubling keeping their eyes open.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 4 percent of Americans said they drifted off to sleep while behind the wheel in the previous month.

Sleep deprivation increases the risk for drowsy driving, and motorists who have been awake for 18 hours have a cognitive impairment of someone who has a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent, according to the CDC.