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AAA researchers study frequency of drowsy driving

In Virginia and the rest of the U.S., drowsy driving is a common factor in accidents. Government statistics show that 1 to 2 percent of all accidents involve drowsy driving, but the number may actually be higher since there is no way for officers to measure drowsiness and no way for some drivers themselves to recognize that they're drowsy.

A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that drowsiness can be a factor in nearly 10 percent of accidents. Researchers monitored more than 3,500 drivers across the nation over a four-year period, recording their actions days at a time through in-vehicle cameras. The study is the first of its kind, say the authors, to use the PERCLOS alertness measure, where drowsiness is measured by how long drivers keep their eyes closed.

The subjects of the study were involved in a total of 701 crashes, with drowsiness factoring in 8.8 to 9.5 percent and sleepiness factoring in 10.6 to 10.8 percent. Accidents due to drowsy driving were three times more likely at night.

A 2012 study from JAMA Internal Medicine found that drowsiness can affect drivers in a way similar to alcohol. Drivers who go for 17 to 19 hours without sleep will function as if they had a BAC of 0.05; after 20 to 25 hours, it rises to 0.1.

Drowsy driving can lead to everything from rear-end collisions and head-on collisions to hit-and-runs and broadsides. Victims of such accidents may benefit from consulting with a lawyer about filing an accident claim against the guilty party's auto insurance company. A lawyer may be able to evaluate the case, determine if the victim was also negligent, and bring in investigators to prove the other's negligence. The lawyer may then negotiate for an informal settlement or take the case to court if those negotiations fall through.

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