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Driving on little sleep increases likelihood of crashing

West Virginia residents have probably heard many warnings about the dangers of drunk or distracted driving. Though drowsy driving gets less attention, it can be just as dangerous. On Dec. 6, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study on the dangers of driving while exhausted. According to the study, crash rates go up significantly among drivers who get less than seven hours of sleep.

The AAA study found that drivers who have only slept for five to six hours in a 24-hour period have a crash rate that is twice as high as drivers who have gotten seven hours of shut-eye. If a driver is operating on only four to five hours of sleep, the driver's likelihood of crashing is four times that of a well-rested driver.

The director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA said that drivers do not necessarily have to get seven hours of sleep all at once. People who were only able to sleep for five hours at night can make up for the lack of sleep by taking a two-hour nap in the afternoon. According to AAA, people who have not slept for at least seven hours in a 24-hour period should not be driving.

The AAA study notes that the collision rate among drivers who have gotten five or fewer hours of sleep is roughly equivalent to that caused by drivers who are impaired by alcohol. Unfortunately, there is no real scientific test to prove that a motorist was sleep-deprived at the time of a crash, so attorneys representing injured victims may need to use other evidence such as eyewitness testimony to demonstrate negligence.

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