Highway to South Texas rated worst for sleepy driver deaths; holiday travelers warned

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Xavier Rodriguez lies on the center divider of Interstate 37 after feeling dizzy Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005, in San Antonio. Rodriguez swerved to avoid hitting another vehicle and lost control of his truck on a slick highway. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Gloria Ferniz)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — As families prepare for holiday travel, a new study out warns that a major road leading to South Texas and border communities has been rated the worst in the nation for sleepy driving fatalities.

The study “Falling Asleep At the Wheel” by SleepJunkie found that Interstate 37, the only major north-to-south corridor from San Antonio to Corpus Christi, which leads most people southward to the McAllen area and border towns, for the past six yeas has been the most dangerous with the most driver deaths caused by falling asleep at the wheel.

“When we looked at interstates in the U.S. that had the most driving fatalities related to sleep, Interstate 37 in southern Texas had the highest volume of fatal driving accidents (more than 18 percent),” the study found.

The 145-mile section was opened in 2010, and the study cited commercial drivers as being a leading source of drivers dozing at the wheel, leading to road fatalities.

This rural stretch of road is dangerously dark at night and there aren’t many towns or roadway stops for drivers. There also are sections where cell service cuts in and out, and because of its remote isolation, this has become a popular route for human traffickers, or “coyotes.”

Other dangerous U.S. interstates, the study cited, include: 440 miles of I-76 between Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and nearly 200 miles across Colorado and into Nebraska.

While there are no tests to determine a person’s level of sleepiness, some studies indicate that being awake for more than 18 hours can produce an impairment equal to a blood alcohol level of .05, which elevates to .10 after 24 hours. A blood alcohol level of .08 is considered legally drunk.

“Making sure that you’re well-rested before driving can save your life and the lives of others sharing the road,” the study stated.

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