‘‘There’s not a way to legislate against sleepiness,’’ said Bruce Hamilton, manager of research and communications at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which instead focuses on public education campaigns and issuing brochures advising on the dangers.
Last summer, drivers in Tennessee’s four largest cities saw message boards imploring them to not drive while drowsy, along with a running tally of highway fatalities in that state.
Mark Rosekind, a National Transportation Safety Board member who formerly directed a sleep research center at Stanford University, says it’s a pervasive problem that requires a culture change to fix.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study this year that found 4 percent of U.S. adults nodded off or fell asleep at least once while driving in the previous month.
‘‘For some reason people in our culture think it’s OK to lose sleep and get behind the wheel,’’ Rosekind said. ‘‘It’s just as bad as drinking and driving. As far as public awareness, drowsy driving is in the dark ages compared to that, but it’s just as dangerous.
‘‘The issue has been around for a while and we need to get the word out. Clearly it has not penetrated our culture.’’