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Drowsy driving makes for dangerous roads

Have you ever been behind a vehicle that's moving around the lane like a bowling ball bouncing off the bumpers? Your first thought might be that it's a drunk driver; however, it could be a sleep-deprived driver.

AAA released a report that found drivers who sleep just five or six hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash as a driver who gets seven hours or more of sleep. Depriving a driver of sleep leads to slower reaction time, decreased accuracy of responses, and long lapses in attention. Drivers who get only four or five hours of sleep have four times the crash rate-similar to an alcohol-impaired driver.

Scary statistics

A recent USA Today story said that estimates put the number of drowsy driver crashes at 328,000 a year on U.S. roads -- 6,400 of those crashes were fatalities. The Montana Highway Patrol 2016 Annual report says drowsiness contributed to 393 accidents in our state, and 11 of those were fatal in 2016.

Required breaks for truckers

Federal safety regulations recognize the danger of driver fatigue. There are some exceptions, but by law, commercial truckers are required to take a 10-hour break after 11 hours of driving. However, not every trucking company abides by these safety laws. A USA Today Network investigation found widespread abuse of the regulations.

Tips to avoid drowsy driving

Drowsy driving is preventable. If you've gotten just a few hours of sleep, stay off the highway. If you're having trouble keeping your eyes open, pull off the road as soon as possible. Safety experts suggest finding a rest stop and taking a nap. On a long drive, taking a 10- to 20-minute nap every few hours has enormous benefits regarding your ability to drive safely.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a drowsy driver -- whether it's a commercial truck or a car -- life can change in a heartbeat. Between the hospital stays and medical bills, police reports and insurance claims, the process can be complicated and can overwhelm the best of us. An experienced personal injury attorney can guide you through the process and help you recover financial compensation for lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses and damages.

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