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Drowsy driving could be as risky as driving drunk

Long stretches of lonely highway in Oklahoma make it easy for a driver to get tired. Certain risk factors enhance the chance of someone falling asleep behind the wheel, and drivers who lose awareness of the road pose similar accident risks as those who have been drinking alcohol.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that fatigue contributes to 7,500 fatal motor vehicle accidents every year. A university researcher, who examined data about drowsy driving accidents, reported that severe accidents tend to involve drivers who were falling asleep or intoxicated. The chances of falling asleep behind the wheel increase for people who snore or average six or fewer hours of sleep per night. Drowsy driver accidents happen most often during the night and on interstate freeways where the speed limits are high.

Sleepiness reduces drivers' abilities to pay attention, make accurate judgments and react quickly. Sleep researchers have documented that people who have not slept for 24 hours exhibit the same cognitive errors as people with a .10 percent blood alcohol level. The deadly crash that killed comedian James McNair and badly injured Tracy Morgan provides an example of a crash caused by a truck driver who had been awake for 28 hours.

Although police reports might underestimate the amount of crashes caused by drowsiness, sleepy drivers remain a significant source of car accidents. A person injured in a wreck caused by a drowsy driver might have cause to file a personal injury lawsuit. An attorney could review the accident evidence for the person to determine if negligence might be proven. Damages that might be recovered from the responsible party could include compensation for medical bills and lost income.

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