Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C.

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Drowsy driving and why it's dangerous

Nearly a third of the respondents to a AAA survey said that they have driven drowsy at least once in the past month. In fact, they admitted that they were so drowsy that they had trouble keeping their eyes open. Virginia residents should know that drowsy driving is a frequent cause of accidents. A 2018 AAA study found that it contributes to 9.5% of crashes, though that percentage may be higher because drowsiness may go unreported.

The danger of sleep deprivation cannot be overstated. The National Sleep Foundation says that going without sleep for 24 hours is like having a blood alcohol content of .10, which is above the legal limit of .08. Yet with so few regions offering comprehensive public transit systems, experts say drowsy driving is almost unavoidable.

The use of prescription sleep aids compounds the problem. In a 2018 Consumer Reports survey, 1 in 5 Americans who use these aids admitted to driving within seven hours of taking them, thus going against the direction that one should sleep for seven to eight hours after taking them.

The CDC says adults must get seven hours of sleep each day. If one must drive even when drowsy, it would be wise to drive with a companion, break every two hours and take 15- to 20-minute naps.

Drowsiness makes drivers slow in their reaction times and poor in their judgment. If a drowsy driver injures someone, that person may have a case under personal injury law. Virginia, though, follows the rule of pure contributory negligence, which means that no one who contributes to an accident, even if it's only 1%, can recover damages. Victims may want to see a lawyer, then, to ensure the strongest case possible. An attorney may handle all the negotiations and, if necessary, litigation.

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