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How Dangerous Is Driving While Drowsy?

Recently there have been several accidents in the Hampton Roads area attributed to drowsy or asleep drivers. But how big is the problem, really?

A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation discovered that 60% of Americans have driven while drowsy, and an alarming 37% have actually drifted off to sleep behind the wheel.

Maybe you've nodded off once or twice but avoided an accident due to rumble strips or an alert passenger. But many aren't so lucky.

Roughly 71,000 Americans receive serious injuries every year from these same accidents, and another 1,600 are killed

But it's hard to say just how accurate these numbers really are—it's impossible to test drivers for “sleepiness” as you can for intoxication, and the only reliable reporting method is through admittance by the drivers themselves.

As you can imagine, motorists aren't very likely to admit falling asleep behind the wheel.

What's more alarming is the fact that an Australian study found similarities between drunk and drowsy driving.

According to the research, being awake for periods of 18–24 hours results in impairment equal to 0.5 to 0.10% blood alcohol content—0.8% is the legal limit for driving.

Fortunately, all of these accidents are preventable. It might seem pointless to mention “warning signs” of drowsy driving—surely you know when you're tired—but we often overlook the signals coming from our own bodies.

Drifting from your lane, excessive yawning or blinking, missing exits or hitting rumble strips are all signs that you are too tired to continue driving

People sometimes make the mistake of assuming “just one more mile and I'll be home.” Many times things turn out fine, but the stakes are always high. An accident could occur without warning

On the other hand, you may have experienced first-hand the effects of driving drowsy. You're driving down the road late at night and another car suddenly swerves into your lane—right into you

Since many drivers refuse to admit to falling asleep on the road, it can be difficult to prove in court. Falling asleep at the wheel is, after all, a form of negligence

When building cases against suspected drowsy drivers, perhaps the best evidence is gathered at the scene of the accident. Telltale signs of a slumbering driver are a lack of skid marks—indicating the driver made no attempt to swerve back into his lane.

If you've been in a car accident in Virginia or Northeastern North Carolina—and you suspect the other driver was guilty of drowsy driving— contact Kalfus & Nachman today or call (855) 880-8163 for a free consultation. We have offices in Newport News, Norfolk, and Roanoke, Virginia.

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