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Getting the facts about drowsy driving

Drowsy driving is a major problem in New York, as elsewhere in the U.S., resulting in tens of thousands of crashes every year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2013, for example, there were 72,000 drowsy driving crashes, and thousands of them produced at least one fatality.

In a survey of almost 150,000 adults in 19 states and the District of Columbia, 4 percent reported that they fell asleep behind the wheel at least once in the previous month. Those who reported sleeping 6 or fewer hours were more likely to fall asleep while on the road. Others who are at a particularly high risk for drowsy driving are CMV drivers, such as truckers and bus drivers; those who work the night shift; those who untreated sleep disorders like sleep apnea; and those who take medications that make them drowsy.

Drivers should be familiar with the symptoms of drowsiness. They include a reduction in decision-making abilities, attention and reaction times. The signs of drowsiness include frequent yawning and blinking, difficulty remembering the last few exits and an inability to keep the vehicle within the lane or off the rumble strip. Sleep is the only preventative, and drivers should get at least 7 hours of it, creating a regular sleep schedule if necessary.

Driving drowsy is a negligent act, and those who cause an accident on account of it can be held liable for others' injuries and vehicle damage. Victims can see a personal injury lawyer and have their case evaluated in order to see if the filing of a lawsuit would be an appropriate step.

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