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Drowsiness, distractions and driving

Fender-benders, catastrophic multi-vehicle car crashes and all the types of car accidents in between wreak havoc on families. Since this is basically the scenario, why do people take chances on the road despite knowing better?

For example, driving requires skills that are very much impaired if you are fighting sleepiness. Research has shown that 18 hours of wakefulness is about the same as a blood alcohol level of .05. After 24 hours awake, that rises to .10. Truckers may be particularly susceptible to pushing the envelope of extended driving, although there are regulations in place to deter them from it. Many drivers say they have tricks to help them remain attentive. Most don't work, however. The American Automobile Association reminds us that even though our eyes are open, we aren't necessarily awake.

Bad things can happen when a driver is fatigued. Judgment time is reduced, vigilance decreases and aggression increases, vision isn't as clear and reactions slow. An innocent victim in another car or a loved one riding as a passenger can suffer the consequences of someone driving while drowsy.

There are helpful choices however. Share driving, start out early, keep to a reasonable itinerary and stop every couple of hours to walk around. At the very least, if signs of fatigue are noted, a short nap in a well-lit area might prevent a crash that can change lives forever.

The other big driving risk comes with distractions. Studies show that just about everyone has made a driving mistake that was due to a distraction. Missing a turn or a near-hit of the car stopped in front of you are wake-up calls that whatever is taking your attention away from the road isn't worth it. Breaking concentration from the roadway, especially when texting and driving, can lead to accidents, injuries and death.

Regardless of sound information advising otherwise, many drivers will continue to operate cars and trucks despite being drowsy and distracted. When an accident happens because they did, they can be held legally accountable and face liability for their actions.

Source: American Automobile Association, "Freeway Driving Demands Special Skills," accessed May. 21, 2015

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