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Is drowsy driving truly a danger?

Many drivers can probably relate to a poll taken by the National Sleep Foundation, as their results showed that approximately 168 million drivers, or 60 percent of licensed adults, admitted to driving while drowsy at least once in the year preceding the poll.

An astounding 37 percent even admitted to falling asleep while driving, with 13 percent reporting doing so at least one time every month. Perhaps not so surprising, 4 percent confessed to having a near-miss or collision attributed to their being too sleepy to safely pilot their vehicle.

These statistics indicate that drowsy driving is a real problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, conservative estimates put 100,000 wrecks reported by police annually to be caused by driver fatigue. The losses are serious and include:

-- 1,550 deaths

-- 71,000 injuries

-- $12.5 billion worth of monetary losses

Those figures are approximations, as determining that accidents result from sleepiness can be impossible. For one, there is no test to measure drowsy driving the way intoxication is measured by blood alcohol content. Below are other impediments to making this determination.

-- Inconsistencies in state reporting regulations.

-- Unreliability of self-reporting.

-- Little or nonexistent police training to identify sleepiness as crash factors.

-- Drowsiness can coexist as a factor with other types of impairment from drugs or alcohol.

Those most at risk are younger drivers between the ages of 18 and 29. Men who work shifts and parents of young children also have higher than average risk for driving while drowsy.

People who are chronically sleep-deprived have an elevated risk of collisions related to their lack of sleep. Those functioning on only six or seven hours of sleep have twice the risk of being involved in an accident than those who get eight or more hours. When the number of hours slept drops to fewer than five, the crash risk can jump as high as five times.

If you suffered injuries due to a drowsy driver, you can hold them civilly liable for your medical bills and associated costs by filing suit in the Texas courts.

Source: National Sleep Foundation, "Facts and Stats," accessed Oct. 09, 2015

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