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Drowsy Driving Plagues Young Drivers

The Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe's Attention Assist system alerts you if you begin to fall asleep while driving.

A new AAA study finds that drivers age 16 to 24 are more likely to doze off while driving than older drivers. According to the study, about 14 percent of licensed drivers in this age group admitted that they fell asleep “at least once” in the past year while driving. When looking at licensed drivers of all ages, AAA found that 10 percent owned up to the same dangerous behavior.

“Research shows that fatigue impairs safe driving, with many symptoms causing drivers to behave in ways similar to those who are intoxicated,” Robert Darbelnet, AAA president and CEO, says in a statement.

Although 80 percent of AAA survey respondents said they think driving while tired is “a serious threat to their own personal safety,” 30 percent said that in the past month, they had driven their vehicle “when they were so tired that they struggled to keep their eyes open.”

video courtesy AAA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 1,550 people die each year from accidents caused by drowsy driving. Snoozing behind the wheel also accounts for 40,000 injuries and more than 100,000 crashes annually. “Critical aspects of driving impairment associated with sleepiness are reaction time, vigilance, attention, and information processing,” NHTSA says.

AAA recommends these tips to help prevent sleepy driving:

  • Get plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) the night before a long trip
  • Avoid travelling at times you would normally be sleeping
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
  • Avoid heavy foods
  • Travel with a companion and take turns driving
  • Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
video courtesy AAA

Some automakers offer technology that helps combat sleepiness behind the wheel. Mercedes-Benz’s Attention Assist system monitors your driving style and detects erratic driving behavior when you start to doze off. If the system thinks you’re falling asleep or not paying attention, it alerts you with visible and audible warnings. This system is available on most Mercedes-Benz vehicles, including the C-Class, E-Class, GLK-Class and M-Class. Other safety features that could help drowsy drivers include lane departure warning, which alerts you when the system detects that you’ve accidentally veered out of your lane, and lane keep assist, which helps steer the vehicle back into its lane if you drift out of it by accident. Lane keep assist can be found on cars like the Lexus GS. Volvo’s Driver Alert Control system works with the lane departure warning system to alert you when you become distracted. It can be found on vehicles like the Volvo XC60, S60 and XC70.

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