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How sleep deprivation can impair driving

In the last several years, sleep deprivation has led to approximately 55,000 car accidents per year throughout the nation, resulting in an average of nearly 1,500 vehicle-related deaths and 40,000 injuries, according to reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Besides a lack of sleep, other factors can lead to drowsiness and fatigue for Colorado drivers.

People who consume alcohol, suffer from a sleep disorder or who take sedating medications prior to driving put themselves at an increased risk for falling asleep and causing an accident. Additionally, those who drive during the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. or who drive for long periods without stopping for a break are more likely to become fatigued at the wheel. Motorists who plan on driving long distances should pull over and rest or have a passenger to drive for part of the trip. Even a 15-minute nap and at least two cups of coffee can greatly increase a driver's alertness.

Drowsiness can affect a driver in several ways. It slows down the brain's ability to integrate and process information quickly. It also reduces a driver's ability to remain vigilant and attentive. An inability to react greatly increases the chances for a collision, especially if the motorist is driving at a high rate of speed.

A driver who falls asleep at the wheel, crashes and causes serious injury to passengers or others on the road may be held liable for damages relating to the motor vehicle accident. By using evidence obtained from police and witness reports, a lawyer may be able to substantiate the claims that the driver's negligence caused the client's injuries. Damages that could be recovered could include the cost of necessary medical treatment as well as lost wages.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes", accessed on April 14, 2015

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