ST. JOSEPH, MICH. —Southwest Michigan car accident lawyer Barry Conybeare said today that a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) report says thousands of survey respondents reported having fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. Conybeare said this report indicates that drowsy driving is a safety threat that must be taken seriously.

“This largest-of-its-kind drowsy driving survey by the CDC indicates clearly that a vast number of Americans are getting behind the wheel while they are too fatigued to drive safely or otherwise have not had enough rest,” said Conybeare, a personal injury lawyer with Conybeare Law Office, P.C., a law firm that serves Southwest Michigan from its St. Joseph location.

“We hope law enforcement officials, legislators and educators will take this study and the issue of drowsy driving seriously, and take measures to fight this dangerous problem,” he said.

The CDC said earlier this month that a study it conducted in 19 states — including Michigan — and the District of Columbia found that 4,301, or 4.2 percent, of 147,076 respondents reported having fallen asleep while driving at least one time during the past 30 days.

“Previous surveys have addressed the topic of drowsy driving, but this report presents the findings from the largest number of U.S. survey respondents to date,” the CDC said. “The finding that 4 percent of respondents reported falling asleep while driving during the previous month agrees with prior smaller studies."

The CDC also said, “Although it is clear that falling asleep while driving is dangerous, drowsiness impairs driving skills even if drivers manage to stay awake. Drowsiness slows reaction time, makes drivers less attentive, and impairs decision-making skills, all of which can contribute to motor vehicle crashes.”

CDC researchers surveyed 5,768 Michigan residents as part of the study and found that 154, or 3.5 percent, reported they had fallen asleep at the wheel during the previous 30 days. Reports of having fallen asleep while driving by state ranged from 2.5 percent in Oregon to 6.1 percent in Texas.

Drowsy driving prevalence decreased with age, from more than 4.9 percent among those ages 18 to 44 years old to 1.7 percent among those 65 or older. Retired respondents (1 percent), students or homemakers (2.1 percent) and unemployed respondents (3.1 percent) were less likely to report drowsy driving than those who were employed (5.1 percent) or unable to work (6.1 percent), the CDC said.

Conybeare said that as public policy catches up with the realization that drowsy driving is a specific, identifiable safety concern, civil courts can hold drowsy drivers accountable when they harm others. Car accident victims in Michigan who think drowsy driving may have played a role in their accident should contact a qualified personal injury lawyer such as those at Conybeare Law Office for a review of their case, he said.

“Drowsy driving accidents have identifying characteristics, such as a lack of braking,” Conybeare said. “Where we can demonstrate that a driver was likely asleep at the wheel prior to a crash, we can hold them responsible for their recklessness.”

Conybeare Law Office, P.C., is the largest full-service, personal injury law firm in Southwest Michigan. Its office is located at 519 Main Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085 (local phone number (269) 983-0561). The firm represents accident and injury victims throughout St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, South Haven, Niles, Dowagiac and other communities in Berrien, Van Buren and Cass counties. The firm takes pride in providing professional yet personalized legal representation to each client in a wide variety of cases. Its practice areas include animal attacks, car accidents, defective products, drunk-driving accidents, medical malpractice, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, premises liability and truck accidents, as well as Social Security disability (SSD) and workers’ compensation benefits. To learn more, call Conybeare Law Office toll free at (800) 983-0561 or use the firm’s online form.