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How to avoid being a drowsy driving statistic

If you're among the millions who will be traveling to a vacation destination or family gathering this holiday season, one of the biggest dangers you'll face on the road is drowsy drivers. Although driving under the influence and distracted driving are well-known causes of car crashes, according to AAA, about 20 percent of all fatal crashes involve at least one driver who dozed off or was operating on insufficient sleep. Nonetheless, nearly one-third of people surveyed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety admitted to driving "when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open" within the past month.

Research has shown that when a person drives on less than the recommended seven hours of sleep, their chances of being involved in a crash rise. The less sleep they got the previous night, the greater their chances are of being involved in a crash.

Unfortunately, too many people take this risk and "power through" to make it to their holiday destinations. They don't stop for necessary rest breaks. One of the most dangerous things you can do is stay up late packing, work a full day and then drive overnight. That's most dangerous when you don't have someone else in the car who can share the driving duties or at least remain awake in case you start to doze off.

Drowsy drivers often display symptoms before they fall asleep behind the wheel. If you can spot those symptoms in yourself or the person behind the wheel, you can take a break, switch drivers or call it a night and start again in the morning. These symptoms include:

  • Daydreaming or having disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble focusing
  • Difficulty keeping your head up
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Forgetting having driven the past few miles
  • Missing (or nearly missing) an exit or turn
  • Drifting into another lane

Sometimes, these signs are so obvious that people in other cars can spot them. It can be difficult to tell if the driver of another vehicle is under the influence, distracted, falling asleep or simply reckless. Whichever it is, it's wise to put some space between you and them and call 911 if you believe they're a danger to other motorists. If you're unfortunate enough to be injured in a crash with one of these drivers, know your legal options for seeking compensation.

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