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– the National Law Journal

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CDC: Drowsy driving prevalent, extremely dangerous

Most people know that it is dangerous to get behind the wheel of a car after having had too much to drink. But how many of us regularly get into our vehicles when we are tired, either from staying out too late or from not getting enough sleep the night before?

Drowsy driving is much more dangerous than most people realize. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately one-third of all fatal car accidents are caused, at least in part, by driver fatigue. Just like drunk drivers, drowsy drivers are less attentive, have impaired reaction time and have compromised decision-making skills.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released the findings of a study that aimed to capture the full extent of the drowsy driving problem in the United States. In that study, one out of every 24 respondents reported that they had fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point during the previous 30 days. Some experts suspect this number may actually be low, since people who doze off for a second or two often don’t realize that they have fallen asleep. Further, drivers who actually fall asleep are only part of the problem – according to the National Sleep Foundation, 25 percent of adult drivers get behind the wheel each month when they are dangerously sleepy.

California is not exempt from the problem. According to the CDC study, 4.8 percent of California drivers reported falling asleep while driving in the previous 30 days.

Drowsy driving rates are worst for men between the ages of 25 and 34. Shift workers and drivers with long commutes also reported high levels of drowsy driving behavior. Retirees and drivers over age 65 reported the lowest rates of drowsy driving, most likely because their schedules allow them to put off getting behind the wheel if they don’t feel up to it.

Preventing drowsy driving accidents

California drivers should treat drowsy driving with the same caution they use toward drunk driving. If you have stayed out too late and you feel sleepy, call a cab or find a place to stay for the night. If you know you are going to need to drive in the morning, make a point to get sufficient sleep. Anything less than 6 hours per night greatly increases your chances of causing an accident.

When it comes to preventing drowsy driving accidents, California drivers need to be willing to take responsibility for themselves. Only you know when you are too sleepy to be safe behind the wheel. You owe it to everyone else on the road to avoid driving if you can’t devote your full attention to being safe.

Drowsy driving is negligent behavior, just like speeding, texting or drunk driving is. As such, drowsy drivers who injure or kill another person in a car accident can be held liable in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. If you or a loved one has been the victim of an accident caused by a drowsy driver, a California personal injury attorney can help you take steps to protect your rights.