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AAA studies threat of drowsy driving

Drivers in Georgia and elsewhere in the U.S. will want to watch out for drowsiness. A CDC report states that more than a third of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep a day. A 2012 study from the journal JAMA Internal Medicine compared drowsy driving to DUI and stated that skipping a full 20 to 25 hours of sleep leads to behavior similar to that in drivers with a 1.0 BAC.

U.S. government statistics state that 1 to 2 percent of all accidents are caused by drowsiness. However, recent findings from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggest that the number may be closer to 10 percent. The foundation has just released a study involving more than 3,500 drivers across the country. Researchers monitored the subjects' driving for several months during a four-year period and studied the resulting crash history.

The subjects were involved in 701 crashes, and researchers concluded that 8.8 to 9.5 percent of them were caused by drowsiness. They determined this through equipment like in-vehicle cameras, which allowed them to measure how long drivers shut their eyes (the PERCLOS measure).

The reason for the higher percentage is that government statistics are limited by their sources, which are mainly police reports and post-crash investigations. Officers cannot measure drowsiness like they can with alcohol use. Drivers also may deny they were tired, which skews the results.

When drowsy driving leads to a car accident, victims can file for compensatory damages. A settlement from the responsible party's insurance company could cover medical expenses, vehicle damage, lost wages, future lost income and more. Victims may want to consult with a lawyer to assess the claim, bring in investigators to find proof of negligence (not necessarily drowsiness) and negotiate for the settlement. If the victim contributed to the accident, this could lower the amount. If negotiations fall through, an attorney can litigate.

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