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Drowsy drivers could be putting you in danger

You understand the importance of being a safe driver, so you always wear your seatbelt, yield to vehicles with the right-of-way and follow the posted speed limit. Perhaps most importantly, you probably also make sure that you get enough rest before getting behind the wheel of your vehicle. Unfortunately, not everyone takes safety as seriously as you do, and drowsy drivers are far more common in Pennsylvania than you might think.

If you recently received an injury in a car accident, there is a chance that the other driver was acting negligently. However, unlike drunk or distracted driving -- such as using a cell phone behind the wheel -- it might be less obvious when a driver caused a wreck because he or she was tired. Here is some important information to know about drowsy driving.

How dangerous is drowsy driving?

There are several factors that make drowsy driving especially dangerous. Unlike with alcohol and intoxication, drivers often struggle to discern the signs of fatigue, so tired drivers might be more likely to think they are alert enough to drive.

A drowsy driver is three times as likely to get in an accident when compared with a well-rested driver. This is likely in part because these drivers have slower reaction times that worsen as they grow more tired, and they are generally less aware of hazards. Perhaps most concerning is that going approximately 20 hours with no sleep is the same as having a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content.

Drowsy driving is more common than you think

A survey from the American Sleep Foundation found that approximately 20 percent of adult drivers in the U.S. admitted to falling asleep while driving at least once over the past year. A total of 40 percent said they had fallen asleep once since they started driving. There are unfortunately not many good numbers on the real prevalence of drowsy driving, in part because of the difficulty of identifying a drowsy driver.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that there are approximately 100,000 crashes involving drowsy driving annually, which cause 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities. However, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study that found the real number of drowsy driving accidents could be as high as 328,000 annually. The study also found that the real number of drowsy driving injuries might be closer to 109,000 and fatalities closer to 6,400.

Drowsy driving interventions don't always work

Things like crash avoidance technology are sometimes helpful, but they are not enough to stop drowsy drivers from causing an accident. Other interventions -- such as getting more sleep or refraining from driving while on certain medications -- could be helpful if applied. However, in today's fast-paced life, getting people to slow down and carefully consider safety is not always easy.

If you received an injury in an accident, then you know how high the stakes are. You probably have medical bills, lost wages and even ongoing pain and suffering, not to mention the emotional trauma of being involved in a serious accident. Demonstrating when these drowsy drivers acted negligent can be difficult, though, so victims would be wise to work with an attorney who is well-versed in Pennsylvania personal injury matters.

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