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Drowsy driving and crash risk the subjects of new study

Most drivers in Illinois know that there is a link between lack of sleep and an increased risk for auto accidents. Drowsy driving is a factor in about 7 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the U.S., including 16 percent of all fatal crashes. It can lead to inattention to one's surroundings and the inability to judge gaps between vehicles and other traffic conditions.

While experts recommend that everyone get between seven and nine hours of sleep, one in three adult drivers in this nation fail to achieve this. A new study in the SLEEP journal provides some statistics showing what the results can be like.

After analyzing a previous study from the U.S. Department of Transportation, researchers found that those who get six hours raise their risk for a car crash 1.6 times. That risk increases 1.9 and 2.6 times when drivers sleep only five or four hours, respectively. If it's less than four hours, drivers are 15.1 times more likely to crash. They will be driving like one whose blood alcohol level is 1.5 times above the legal limit.

Researchers also note how changes to one's sleep schedule, if made within the previous week, will make drivers drowsy. Traveling for three or more hours without a break becomes a danger as well.

Drivers are responsible for maintaining control of their vehicles at all times, so if fatigue makes them negligent, they will be liable for any accidents they cause. Victims who are not to blame or who are only partly to blame can file a personal injury claim and, if successful, be awarded damages for losses like medical expenses, vehicle repair costs and income lost during the physical recovery. Victims might benefit from hiring a lawyer, who may opt to negotiate for a settlement and prepare a case for court if necessary.

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