While driving, William Nickerson constantly thinks about staying awake.

“It’s always in the front of my mind. I couldn’t live with my conscience if I fell asleep at the wheel and killed a family,” he said.

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 4.2 percent of 147,076 people surveyed said they had fallen asleep at least one time while driving during the last 30 days. And some studies have estimated that as many as one-third of fatal crashes might involve drowsy drivers.

“Although it is clear that falling asleep while driving is dangerous, drowsiness impairs driving skills even if drivers manage to stay awake,” the CDC reports.

Nickerson, 58, of Goose Creek drives up to 2,000 miles per month for his job as area supervisor for the state Meat and Poultry Inspection Department of Clemson University.

As a young man, he could drive 12 hours at a stretch. Now, he limits himself to four hours on the road at one time. He also avoids driving at night.

“I’m very aware of being excessively sleepy and tired, especially while driving. I don’t want to be a danger to the public,” he said.

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