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Feeling fully rested doesn't guarantee an alert driver

Did you know that around 15 to 33 percent of all fatal crashes per year are caused by a drowsy driver? That is more than the number of fatal drunk driving accidents. It may not be a well known fact, but it is a very real statistic, according to researchers who used federal data.

Drowsy driving is a real issue. A lot of people try to avoid drunk driving, whether it is due to a realization of the dangers or fear of prosecution. What makes drowsy driving uniquely dangerous is that many people don’t consciously think about how being tired affects their driving skills.

A recent study conducted by researchers with the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that those who get less than six hours of sleep are more likely to become drowsy behind the wheel. This includes those that have become accustomed to short sleeping patterns and may feel completely rested.

Participants in the study were asked questions about their sleeping and driving patterns. Using seven hours of sleep as the standard, those that got less than an average of six hours per night were twice as likely to admit that they drove drowsy in the past 30 days prior to questioning. Those that got four hours of sleep or less were four times as likely. Even those that said they were completely rested despite the small periods of sleep were 3 times as likely.

An officer at the scene of an Orange County crash may not ask the driver if they felt rested, got enough sleep the night before or drank caffeine during the drive. Thus, these details are often missing from an officer’s accident report. But an accident report isn’t the only evidence admissible in a civil lawsuit. So while a police officer may not ask these questions, a wrongful death attorney certainly will.

The answer to all of the questions above and more will help determine if a driver negligently caused a car accident. For instance, stopping for coffee the morning after a late night may be an indication that the driver was too drowsy to safely operate a motor vehicle. It is this type of evidence that can become vital in a claim for compensation, and also why it is so important to consult with an attorney experienced in these cases as soon as possible.

Source: Claims Journal, “Short Sleepers Most Likely to Be Drowsy Drivers,” Oct. 2, 2013

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