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Drowsy driving is a safety issue that is getting an increasing amount of attention. In 2016, experts estimated that drowsy driving causes about 20 percent of fatal accidents nationwide.

What is so dangerous about driving when you are sleepy? Science suggests that going without sleep for 24 hours can have an effect equivalent to a BAC above the legal limit. Lower amounts of sleep deprivation also inflict a level of impairment similar to the effects of intoxication. Thus, driving when low on sleep poses many of the same risks generated by driving drunk.

How drowsiness impairs the ability to drive

Even people who only fall 1-2 hours short of the recommended seven can find their ability to drive safely noticeably reduced. Effects of under-sleeping may include increased clumsiness, blurred vision and slow movement. Any of these symptoms can make it difficult to react quickly when faced with a sudden hazard.

Drowsy people also experience psychological and cognitive effects that impair their ability to stay safe on the road. Short-term memory loss, slow or foggy thinking processes and a high level of distraction can all prevent drivers from noticing and responding to dangers such as swerving vehicles, objects in the road and weather conditions.

Effects of sleepiness may vary

Even more than alcohol, sleep deprivation can vary in terms of how strongly it will affect any one individual. One person's full night's sleep is another's not-nearly-enough sleep. Knowing how drowsiness affects you personally is an important part of staying safe. However, do keep in mind that, just as with alcohol, many people overestimate their ability to keep functioning and underestimate their level of impairment. When in doubt, do not get behind the wheel.

Factors that increase the effects of under-sleeping

People who take prescription medications need to be especially careful about potential side effects that can combine with fatigue to intensify symptoms. Alcohol, even in small amounts that would keep BAC under the legal level, can also amplify the effects of drowsiness. If a driver did not get enough sleep, he or she should avoid any substances that could make the problem worse.

Who is most at risk

Some people are more likely than others to lack sleep on a regular basis. This category includes shift workers, college students with irregular schedules and people with sleep disorders such as apnea and narcolepsy.

Signs another driver may be impaired

Taking precautions against driving while drowsy is, unfortunately, only half the battle. There is no way for drivers to make sure other drivers on the road do the same. It is best to stay alert and keep plenty of distance from drivers who seem too slow to react to changing traffic conditions, drift out of their lanes or fail to keep a proper distance from vehicles ahead.

Drivers who become the victim of a car collision may be able to recover compensation from the driver who was at fault. A qualified attorney can build a strong case and get the recourse necessary .

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