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Drowsy driving, a growing epidemic

Many Iowa residents fail to sleep the minimum of seven hours that the CDC recommends for each night. As a result, more and more people are driving drowsy. A 2018 AAA study observed camera footage of drivers just before they were involved in collisions, and researchers concluded that 9.5% of all accidents are caused by drowsy drivers.

Drivers need to know that the effects of sleep deprivation are comparable to those of alcohol intoxication. The National Sleep Foundation says that going without sleep for 24 consecutive hours will lead to impairment similar to that of having a BAC of .10. That's over the legal limit of .08.

Another factor in drowsy driving is the use of prescription sleep aids. Usually, it's best to sleep seven to eight hours after taking these. However, a Consumer Reports survey of 1,767 adults in the U.S. found that one in five people who take sleep aids admitted to getting behind the wheel within seven hours. Other drugs like antidepressants, antihistamines and muscle relaxers can cause sleepiness too.

To prevent drowsy driving, adequate sleep may not be enough. Some people technically get seven hours but feel drowsy nonetheless, in which case they may be dealing with obstructive sleep apnea. Individuals who take prescription or over-the-counter drugs may have their doctor reschedule dosages to avoid conflicts with their commute.

A driver who becomes drowsy and causes a car accident could be held liable, but the other side may want to consult an attorney before moving forward with a claim. Plaintiffs whose degree of negligence is less than 50% can recover damages, and these damages could include everything from medical expenses and lost wages to pain and suffering and emotional trauma. With a personal injury attorney, a victim may be able to present a strong case to the other's insurance company.

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