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AAA Foundation study shines light on severity of driving while fatigued

Drowsy driving may be more prevalent than people realize. Recent studies by AAA revealed a large number of drivers admitted to driving while sleepy.

America is a chronically sleep-deprived country. People drive to work and back on little sleep, relying on caffeine to get them through the day. Teenagers and college students rarely get the sleep they need. Countless people in Massachusetts and elsewhere work late nights or drive trucks, further increasing their chances of getting into a sleep-related car accident.

Recent studies have further illuminated the serious issue of drowsy driving. According to a report released in August, the AAA Foundation stated that driving while sleepy causes about 328,000 motor vehicle collisions throughout the country every year, which includes at least 6,400 fatalities. In a survey conducted in 2015, 31.5 percent of participants said they had driven while seriously sleepy at some point during the previous month. Nearly half admitted to having fallen asleep while driving, according to USA Today.

Most prevalent risk groups

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have pointed out the following types of drivers who are most likely to be involved in a drowsy driving accident:

  • Truck drivers and other commercial drivers
  • Those who work late or overnight shifts
  • People who have untreated or undiagnosed sleep disorders
  • Those who take medication that causes drowsiness
  • People who chronically do not get adequate sleep

Teenagers are also high on the list of drivers most likely to be sleep-deprived, states The Washington Post. This may be in part because young people's inner "sleep timers" are stronger than those of older people, and they can fall asleep more easily - including behind the wheel. Massachusetts lawmakers took the problem into consideration a few years ago, and a new law went into effect in 2007 addressing teen driving late at night. Drivers between the ages of 16 1/2 and 17 face a one-month driver's license suspension for driving past the curfew hours of 12:30 and 5:00 in the morning. They may lose their license for 180 days to one year for subsequent offenses. Since the law went into effect, authorities say there has been a significant reduction in overall crashes and nighttime accidents for that age group.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that everyone should try to get a full night's sleep before getting behind the wheel to lower the chances of being injured in a crash caused by drowsy driving, especially before taking a long trip. Studies have shown that driving while sleep-deprived has the same impairment effects as driving while intoxicated.

Despite precautions, one cannot always prevent another person causing an accident. Those who are injured by a negligent driver may wish to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in North Andover.

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