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Drowsy driving causes car crashes

Many things cause car crashes. Inclement weather conditions, bad roads, speeding and many other factors contribute. Another contributing factor is drowsy driving. Being knowledgeable about it is critical so you can avoid being part of the problem.

The National Sleep Foundation declared the first week of November Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. This was to publicize the problem of sleep-related crashes with the goal of saving the lives that are lost in them.

Drowsy driving happens when people drive when they're overtired. This could be sleepiness, often as a result of not having gotten enough sleep. It can also be because of physical fatigue, such as when someone is worn out at the end of a long day. Either way, it results in low attentiveness and slow responsiveness. That combination is deadly out on the roads where driving safely requires high attentiveness and quick responses.

It has been estimated that one in 25 adult drivers, defined as those who are 18 and older, have fallen asleep while driving during a 30-day period. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 800 deaths, 44,000 injuries and 72,000 crashes due to drowsy driving in 2013.

It is particularly common among commercial drivers, like those who operate buses, tractor-trailers, and tow trucks. Shift workers, drivers with untreated sleep disorders, and drivers who use sleep-inducing medication all also high rates of drowsy driving.

To prevent becoming a statistic, note if you find yourself blinking or yawning excessively. Either may be a sign of being tired. Missing your exit, beginning to drift out of your lane and hitting a rumble strip are also signs of overtiredness. Always err on the side of safety. If you are at risk of drowsy driving, get off the road.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Drowsy Driving: Asleep at the Wheel," accessed Dec. 10, 2015

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