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Drowsy driving and what to do about it

New Jersey residents who get less than seven hours of sleep, as well as those who work night shifts or who take certain medications, are at a high risk for drowsy driving. Drowsiness affects about half of all adult drivers in the U.S. according to the American Sleep Foundation, and 20 percent even admit to falling asleep behind the wheel. These figures should be alarming because fatigue triples one's chances of getting in a car crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that over 100,000 police-reported crashes involve drowsy driving annually. However, a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that the actual number may be triple that. It can be hard, after all, to detect drowsiness after a crash has already occurred.

Drowsiness impairs judgment and slows reaction times. Drivers who go for 20 consecutive hours without sleep will act like someone with a .08 BAC, which is the legal limit. Unaware that they are drowsy, drivers may even suffer from involuntary five-second bursts of inattention called microsleep.

In addition to getting enough sleep, drivers can install drowsiness alerts and lane departure warning systems in their vehicles to avoid accidents. The majority of drowsy driving crashes involve those under 25, so universities and parents of teen drivers should consider educating on the dangers of drowsy driving.

Those who suffer a personal injury at the hands of a sleep-deprived driver may want to see if they can receive damages. Under this state's comparative negligence law, victims in a two-car crash can file as long as they are 50 percent or less to blame for the accident. A lawyer might evaluate the grounds for a claim, have third parties investigate the accident and calculate a fair amount for a settlement. A lawyer may also prepare the case for a trial if negotiations fail.

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