COLUMBUS, KS.--- Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves warns drivers of a growing issue that's claiming the lives of thousands of Americans each year. A study by the Federal Department of Transportation shows the number of fatigue related crashes has been on a constant uptick since 2007. So, local law enforcement want to make sure you recognize the dangerous and know how to reduce drowsiness levels.
"I traveled on the road for 11 years, and depending on how your company pushes you to be at a certain location, it really ups the fatigue level," said Rodney Oels, Driver.
Now, Rodney Oels tries to limit the amount of time he's on the road. Commercial drivers aren't the only ones suffering from fatigue behind the wheel. According to the Federal Department of Transportation, approximately 20% of all traffic crashes each year are related to drowsiness.
"Having the drivers to a point of fatigueness where they're actually similar to being over the legal limit of alcohol," said Sheriff David Groves, Cherokee County.
More than 100,000 fatigue related crashes happen annually, taking the lives of an estimated 1,500 people. So, law enforcement officers are trying to help control the problem.
"If you feel your eyes getting heavy, if you start to get into a daze, just pull over. Sometimes it's good to just take a couple minutes, stretch, walk around your car and get the energy flowing again," said Sheriff Groves.
If your exhausted, Groves says take a nap. A lack of sleep and lengthy trips are the biggest factors in fatigue related accidents.
According to the study, most fatigue related crashes happen after lunch time, between one and three in the afternoon.
"I can assure you that my worst time to drive was between 12 and 2, and it was most definitely after lunch," said Oels.
"It's important to recognize that and be aware of it and if you have long distances to travel, try to avoid doing so after eating a heavy meal," said Sheriff Groves.
The Department of Transportation says the common denominator in the crashes relates to economic issues.
"A lot of people have full time jobs, if they can get a part-time job, they do. Juggling a family at the same time, so what normally was home life and rest time isn't so restful anymore," said Sheriff Groves.
It's recommended to sleep between seven to nine hours and to avoid a heavy meal before a long trip
Copyright 2013 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.