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Sleepy drivers more likely to be involved in accidents

When asked to identify behaviors that contribute to the incidence of car accidents in the U.S., most people would be quick to name drunk driving or even distracted driving. Although it may be an obvious point, many people fail to realize just how dangerous drowsy driving can be. In fact, some experts believe that it may be even more dangerous than drunk driving.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, drowsy drivers are approximately three times more likely to be involved in car accidents than drivers who are properly rested. The study, which was conducted among 2,673 drivers in Western Australia, identified drivers with sleep apnea as those who are most likely to get behind the wheel while sleep deprived. These drowsy drivers are likely a danger not only to themselves, but to other people on the highway, as well.

Individuals with sleep apnea suffer from pauses in their breathing during sleep. These episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or more and can occur up to 30 times in an hour. As a result of these pauses, those with sleep apnea generally do not get the high quality sleep they need to be properly rested.

The study's focus on sleep apnea may make it seem as if drowsy driving is a problem with a limited scope, but the reality is that many people who have not had as much sleep as they should get behind the wheels of their cars every day. Perhaps someone is traveling on a long interstate road trip and is pushing himself to make good time. It may be someone who is trying a new prescription medication and is unfamiliar with how it affects his sleep patterns. No matter the cause, the result is the same: those who drive while drowsy cause significantly more car accidents than those who do not.

As the holiday season begins and the year comes to an end, it is particularly important for those traveling to visit friends and family to remember how important it is to get enough sleep before driving long distances. Those who are injured in a car accident caused by an inattentive or drowsy driver should remember, too, that they may be entitled to recover money for medical bills and other costs. It is a good idea for those who have been injured to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn more about their legal options.