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Driving while drowsy: What you need to know

When you think about risky driving behavior, speeding or driving while intoxicated may come to mind. While those are certainly dangerous, one common risk that many people take every day is driving while drowsy. It's a behavior that is fully preventable and still claims too many lives on the nation's roadways.

If you or a loved one here in Illinois has ever been in a collision with a drowsy driver, you know all too well how unnecessary it is. Even so, in 2017, around 91,000 crashes involved a drowsy driver, and almost 800 people died in drowsy driving accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Exact figures are difficult to determine since researchers believe that drowsy driving is under reported. Fortunately, experts have advice on stopping these kinds of accidents and how to protect yourself.

How to avoid being a drowsy driver

Obviously, the best way to prevent a drowsy driving accident is to ensure that you get adequate sleep. Most experts say to aim for seven to eight hours per night. They also say that parents should warn teenage drivers about the dangers of drowsy driving. If you have to drive at times of day when you or others are likely to be a bit sleepy, like after midnight or in the late afternoon, experts say to look out for indications that you are drowsy, such as drifting into another lane.

Experts also want drivers to avoid using any substances that could make them sleepy before they drive. These include alcohol and illegal drugs but also may encompass prescribed medications. If you take a drug that lists sleepiness as a side effect, avoid driving. Even some over-the-counter medicines cause drowsiness, so be sure to read labels.

Can I avoid other drowsy drivers?

While a victim may not have any fault for an accident, there is one way to reduce the risk of encountering a drowsy driver. Experts say that these kinds of crashes happen at certain times of day, with midnight to 6 a.m. or the late afternoon being peak times for drowsy driving crashes. Other common factors are much more difficult to avoid. Most drowsy driving accidents happen on rural roads or highways and generally involve a car that has a driver with no passengers.

Even with precautions, it is impossible to completely protect yourself from a careless driver who insists on driving while tired. If you or someone you care about has been hurt in a car crash with a drowsy driver, you have options to ensure responsible parties are held accountable. This kind of accident never should happen, but you can stand up for yourself.

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