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Are drowsy drivers really that dangerous?

Summertime means many things to many people, but for plenty of New Jersey residents it may mean it's time for a road trip. With the season's longer daylight hours drivers can avoid driving after sundown in many instances. Still, whether one is driving in broad daylight or in the middle of the night, drowsy drivers can pose a serious danger to everyone else on the road.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a conservative estimate regarding the number of drowsiness-related crashes each year is around 100,000. The annual number of deaths caused by these types of car accidents is around 1,550. In addition, these incidents tend to cause about 70,000 injuries and billions in financial losses every year. While these numbers are indeed alarming, they may actually be lower estimates than what the numbers really are. It's not easy to determine if a crash was caused by a fatigued driver - after all, there is no test for fatigue as there is for blood alcohol content, and drivers' own self-reporting is generally not very reliable.

Accidents caused by drowsy or even asleep drivers are often doubly tragic because they are so preventable. There are many things a driver can do to forestall an accident caused by drowsiness or fatigue. Drivers can plan ahead for long road trips, budgeting both their time and their money to allow plenty of time for stops at a hotel or rest area. In addition, drivers can have a plan in place for when they feel their attentiveness is waning.

Taking turns driving, stopping for coffee, adjusting the temperature of the car's interior - these may all help momentarily but what many drivers truly need is rest. One study has shown that drivers who get less than five hours of sleep per night upped their risk of being in a car crash by four to five times.

For people who get hit by drowsy or distracted drivers, it's important to know where to turn for help. An experienced auto accident attorney can pursue compensation on behalf of an accident victim; this compensation can cover medical bills, property damage and other expenses related to the accident. Consulting with an attorney can be a proactive and productive step after an encounter with a negligent driver.

Source: The National Sleep Foundation, "Stats and Facts," accessed June 13, 2016

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