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What do drowsy driving and drunk driving have in common?

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If you answered, "Both have a high risk of causing car accidents," you are correct. In fact, if you've been awake longer than 24 hours and get behind the wheel, you are taking as much risk as you would be if you were driving drunk. You might not skip an entire night's sleep very often, but if you are like most people in California and elsewhere, it is not uncommon to be sleep-deprived fairly regularly. As you might imagine, this could spell disaster when you drive.

Exactly how common is drowsy driving, you may wonder? The National Sleep Foundation reports that in a survey, 60 percent of drivers in the U.S. admitted to having driven drowsy in the past year; 37 percent said they had fallen asleep driving; and 13 percent reported being sleep-deprived at the wheel on a monthly basis. Every year in the country, 1,550 people lose their lives and 71,000 sustain injuries in at least 100,000 accidents attributed to sleepy driving.

How can you avoid becoming one of these statistics? The following tips might help:

  • If you regularly experience sleep difficulties, address the problem with your doctor.
  • Get a full night's sleep before going on a long trip.
  • Take someone with you who can switch driving duties regularly.
  • Stop often to stretch your legs or rest, especially if you feel yourself becoming sleepy at the wheel.
  • Do not rely on caffeinated drinks to get you through a longer trip - coffee and energy drinks are more effective for shorter periods.
  • Avoid driving if you are taking medications that cause sleepiness.

College and high school students, young parents and people who work late shifts are among those who are most likely to get into sleep-related accidents, but anyone may drive while drowsy. You can take measures to reduce your chances of causing an accident, but you may be eligible for compensation if another driver is responsible for your injuries. If you have been in injured in a car accident, speak with an attorney to learn about your legal options.

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