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Dozing and driving a deadly mix

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Posted: 10 am ET

Don't let a Clark Griswold moment ruin your Christmas vacation.

Want to help bring down your auto insurance rate? Have a cup of coffee before you hit the road.

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 4 out of 10 drivers surveyed admit they've fallen asleep at the wheel, 1 in 10 within the past year. This despite the fact that 85 percent found it "completely unacceptable." I guess the other 15 percent dozed off before the question was asked.

Consider the impact on your auto insurance. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that dozing drivers contribute to more than 100,000 traffic accidents, 1,500 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion-with-a-b in monetary losses every year. That's 1 in 6 fatalities, 1 in 8 crash-related hospitalizations and 1 in 14 accidents that required a tow. And the problem is only getting worse.

AAA says that because napping motorists obviously can't avoid a collision, the accidents they cause can be especially severe, further driving up auto insurance rates. Studies have shown that the cognitive-psychomotor impairment caused by 24 hours without sleep approximates or exceeds that of being legally intoxicated.

Perhaps the most insidious thing about falling asleep at the wheel is how quickly we can nod off, perhaps never to awaken.

AAA says if you have trouble keeping your head up, your eyes open or focused, or can't remember the last few miles you drove, you need a break. If you find yourself yawning repeatedly, drifting out of your lane, tailgating or having disconnected thoughts, you're nodding off, Jack.

Solution: Pull off, get out and wake up before it's too late -- for you and your fellow motorists.

Although we all pay for driver fatigue in the form of higher auto insurance rates, the far bigger impact hits when family, friends or loved ones are killed or injured quick as a wink.

Get some sleep, grab some coffee or turn Lady Gaga up to 11, but please, stay awake behind the wheel this holiday season.

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