Drowsy driving is impaired driving

Throughout the year and especially during the holiday season, there are efforts to prevent and warn against the dangers posed by a drunk driver in Kentucky. But a fatigued driver poses almost as great of risk of causing car accidents.

Drowsy driving was associated with approximately 100,000 traffic accidents each year, according to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These accidents caused over 1,500 fatalities and 70,000 injuries.

Experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep every night. However, drivers who do not fall asleep still pose a risk by not being alert. Most crashes involve drivers who are alone in their cars and driving after midnight.

Drivers who sleep less than four hours of sleep each night have an impairment that is equal to driving with a blood alcohol content that is almost 1.5 times the legal limit. Drivers who sleep less than seven hours a night are also more likely to become involved in an accident. In fact, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety data shows that motorists who are only one to two hours short of sleep still have double the risk of being involved in an auto accident.

There are numerous causes of fatigued driving in addition to sleep loss. These include driving long hours with no or infrequent breaks, driving alone or with sleeping passengers and having sleep disorders that are not be treated or remain undiagnosed. Drinking alcohol and using sleep aids or anti-anxiety medications also multiply the risks.

Signs of falling asleep while driving include increased blinking and long duration of blinking and slower eye movement. Fatigued driving is also apparent by swerving, slowed reaction time and poor decision-making.

Unlike the use of a breathalyzer or blood tests in drunk driving prosecutions, law enforcement does not yet have a test to measure a driver's fatigue. However, scientists are developing a computer algorithm which will distinguish between sleep-deprived and rested drivers by recognizing changes in the expression of specific genes. This could lead to a blood test indicating whether a driver had enough sleep.

A car accident victim should seek legal representation to determine whether they were involved in a crash caused by a fatigued, impaired or negligent driver. An attorney can help obtain evidence and seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.

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