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Sleep Week on 11Alive: Drowsy driving

8:54 AM, May 10, 2011   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- A moving vehicle is one of the most deadly objects on Earth. It's even more so, when the person behind the wheel is tired.

"Drowsy driving or sleepy driving is a major public health problem," said Dr. Russell Rosenberg, a researcher at the Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic.

"Between 100,000-200,000 motor vehicle accidents per year can be attributed just to sleepy drivers and somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 deaths on America's roads," he added. 

According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 165,000 Americans say they've driven drowsy during the previous year, and an astonishing one-third of all respondents actually admitted to falling asleep.

To test the effects of drowsy driving, 11Alive's Commuter Dude John Gerard stayed up all night.

"I am feeling really tired," he said before participating in a driving simulation at the Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic the next morning. 

"We're trying to see if people are impaired when they drive," said simulator operator Matthew Beyer. "So what we do is we take a normal drive when they're not impaired or sleepy or anything like that, then we take a drive or two when they are impaired. Then we compare the two and see what the significant differences are."

The nature of the simulation is different the old driver's education films where kids suddenly jump in front of your car. The test purposely takes place along a quiet country road, with few distractions to stimulate the driver's senses. That, combined with a lack of sleep, can make a person pretty punchy.

It can be difficult to maintain a lane, as well as a safe, consistent speed.

See how Commuter Dude did during his test in the video above.

All week long, the 11Alive morning team will bring you stories and solutions on sleep.

You can watch their Sleep Week stories live each weekday through Thursday at about 6:45 a.m. on 11Alive News Today and find them online at 11Alive.com/mornings.

For more details on sleep disorders and treatments, visit Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic's website.

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