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Drowsiness: its effect on drivers and its symptoms

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the police report an estimated 100,000 drowsy driving crashes every year in New York and across the U.S. However, a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that the actual number of drowsy driving crashes may be triple that. In other words, drowsiness is a danger to drivers that often goes unrealized and unreported.

Its effect on drivers can be likened to the effect of alcohol. Getting behind the wheel after 20 straight hours of wakefulness can be compared to driving with a .08 BAC, which is the nation's legal limit. Drowsiness is known to make drivers inattentive, slow to react and poor in decision-making ability. It triples the risk for a crash. Over 50 percent of drowsy drivers are those under 25 with college students being especially at risk as they get an estimated six or fewer hours of sleep.

The first step to prevention is to recognize the symptoms. Drivers may yawn or blink frequently, have trouble keeping their eyes open, have trouble maintaining their speed or their lane and even miss turns and exits. When possible, they should take a nap rather than pressing ahead. Getting seven or more hours of sleep is the only long-term solution to drowsiness. If applicable, drivers should also avoid medications that make them sleepy.

While employers, universities and the parents of teen drivers are encouraged to intervene and educate on the dangers of drowsy driving, it is ultimately up to the driver to make the right choices. When negligence leads to auto accidents, victims may choose to file a claim. In New York, victims can file no matter how much they contributed to the accident; however, their degree of fault will affect the amount of compensation they're eligible for. To file for the maximum amount possible, they may want legal assistance.

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