While much of the focus lately has been on distracted driving – and texting while driving in particular – a new study demonstrates the very serious consequences of something most people probably do at some point: drive while they are tired.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Traffic Safety Culture Index estimated 21 percent of fatal accidents involved a drowsy driver. That is up from 16.5 percent found in a 2010 study.

The latest study, which examined accident data from 2009 to 2013, also estimated that drowsy driving was involved in 7 percent of accidents in which someone received medical treatment for injuries and 13 percent of crashes in which someone was hospitalized for injuries suffered in the accident.

A press release from AAA stated that the data show that drowsy driving is much more prevalent than federal data indicates something safety experts have long suspected.

“This new research further confirms that drowsy driving is a serious traffic safety problem,” Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a press release. “Unfortunately, drivers often underestimate this risk and overestimate their ability to combat drowsiness behind the wheel.”

The AAA Foundation also reported that more than a third of drivers say they have fallen asleep behind the wheel, with 1 in 10 saying they fell asleep while driving in the last year. Prior surveys show young drivers are more likely than older drivers to admit to driving while drowsy.

Despite so many admitting to fatigued driving, the AAA Foundation study also indicated 95 percent of Americans find it “unacceptable” to drive while drowsy.

AAA is urging drivers to recognize the warning signs of driving while drowsy, including:

  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open or focusing.
  • Feeling like your head is heavy.
  • Drifting out of your lane, including driving onto rumble strips.
  • Repeated yawning.
  • Missing traffic signs.
  • Inability to recall the last few miles driven.

To prevent driving while drowsy, AAA recommends:

  • Getting plenty of sleep before a long drive.
  • Taking turns driving.
  • Having an alert passenger in the car.
  • Taking a break every two hours.
  • Avoiding medications that cause drowsiness.

Driving while too drowsy or fatigued may be considered negligence if it leads to an accident. If you have been seriously injured in a crash that was caused by a drowsy driver in South Carolina, it’s important to contact an experienced car accident attorney who can help you through the legal process to secure the compensation you deserve.

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Since 1968, the South Carolina personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys of Joye Law Firm have been committed to securing compensation for accident and injury victims. Our compassionate and dedicated lawyers have over 300 years of combined litigation experience, and many of them have been recognized as South Carolina Super Lawyers. For many years, our South Carolina personal injury law firm has been listed with an AV rating in the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell legal directory.

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