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Drowsy drivers: The risks and how to mitigate them

Drowsy driving is a national problem. People who get behind the wheel without enough sleep put themselves and others at risk of an accident. Statistics show that drowsy driving is a common cause of crashes, taking 846 lives in 2014 and even more since that date.

The problem with drowsy driving is that drivers may be awake but then start to doze off.  They have limited time to respond to stimuli, if they notice it at all. As a result, the drivers often collide with other vehicles or get into single-vehicle crashes.

How can you avoid drowsy driving?

A good way to avoid drowsy driving is to take stock of how you feel before you get behind the wheel. If you're too tired to drive or feel sleepy, it is a better idea to have someone else drive or to get some rest before you do. In the short term, drinking coffee or energy drinks could help you feel more alert. However, they are not a replacement for true rest and sleep. Eventually, even a person using caffeine to boost their alertness will fall asleep.

Instead of trying quick fixes, pull over to the side of the road if you begin to feel tired. Taking a nap in a safe place, even if it's only 20 minutes, could boost your level of alertness, so you can get where you're going. If you have time to rest for longer, try pulling into a rest stop or parking lot and sleeping for several hours before you get back on the road.

Drivers are sometimes caught off-guard by medications and side effects that make them tired. Avoid taking new medications whose side effects you're not sure of before you get in your vehicle. Being safe starts at home. Get rest and stay alert.

If you have been injured in a crash caused by a drowsy driver, you may be able to claim compensation for your medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses. An experienced personal injury lawyer can review your situation and discuss your legal options.

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