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Was it a drunk driver or a drowsy driver that caused the crash?

These days, that question may be more relevant than you think. Most West Virginia residents have driven when they were really too tired to do so at one point or another. The fast pace of today's world doesn't really encourage you to get a sufficient amount of sleep.

It may always seem as though there is something else you should be doing rather than sleeping. You may be like others who make sure to grab some caffeine first thing in the morning in order to give yourself a jump-start. Unfortunately, the effects of caffeine wear off rather quickly, and many people find themselves tired once again. Sleepiness and driving don't mix well — just like alcohol and driving.

What does the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study say?

Sleep experts recommend that most adults should get at least seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study that revealed a 400 percent increase in accident potential for drivers who lost two to three hours of that sleep time. If you only got five or six hours of sleep, your crash potential doubles. Around 20 percent of all fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver.

What are the odds?

When compared to drivers who were able to get at least seven hours of sleep within a 24-hour period, the study showed the following correlations between sleep deprivation and crash potential:

  • 11.5 times for four hours or less
  • 4.3 times for four to five hours
  • 1.9 times for five to six hours
  • 1.3 for six to seven hours

In fact, a mere four to five hours of sleep a night appears to cause the same effect as if you were driving at or above the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration, which is .08 here in West Virginia. Again, this correlation also grows when you only get four or less hours of sleep within a 24-hour period.

More statistics

You may wonder just how many people out there face these risks. Approximately 35 percent of adults do not get at least seven hours of sleep at night. In fact, 12 percent only get five hours or less. Approximately one-third of adult drivers admit to having trouble staying awake while driving, yet 97 percent believe it's dangerous to drive when tired.

Many people are so chronically sleep deprived that they may not recognize when they may be too tired to drive. When you add over-the-counter medications that cause drowsiness and alcohol into the mix, the odds get even worse.

What happens if you drive drowsy?

If you get behind the wheel when you are tired, you may experience the following affects:

  • Slower reaction time
  • Easily distracted
  • Poor judgment

If you find yourself yawning excessively, drifting out of your lane or fighting to keep your eyes open, more than likely, you should not be driving.

Who is most at risk?

Anyone could fall asleep at the wheel without adequate rest, but certain groups have a higher risk:

  • On-call doctors
  • Students
  • Night-shift workers
  • Business travelers
  • Pilots

Of course, any parent who has ever taken care of a sick child or a newborn would more than likely understand that doing so leaves you tired as well.

What if a drowsy driver caused your accident?

If you suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one in an accident caused by a drowsy driver, you may need to work quickly to gather the appropriate evidence. An investigation of the events leading up to the accident may be necessary in order to establish that fatigue led to your injuries or the loss of your loved one as you pursue compensation for your financial losses.

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