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The risks of drowsy driving

New York motorists should be aware that driving while drowsy or sleepy presents just as much danger as getting behind the wheel while distracted or intoxicated. According to a report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who have slept no more than five or six hours within a 24-hour span are two times more likely to get in a crash as people who have gotten seven hours or more.

The findings also indicate that the less sleep a driver has, the higher the crash rates. For example, drivers who slept only four or five hours had four times the crash rate, similar to that of drivers who were intoxicated.

Earlier research has found that drowsy drivers are involved in about 20 percent of the fatal traffic accidents that occur in the United States each year. Based on information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 35,092 people were killed in vehicle accidents in the United States in 2015, and thus a significant number of them were likely killed as a result of a sleep-deprived driver or were those motorists themselves.

The information in the AAA study was based on data obtained from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey from the NHTSA. The data from the survey was taken from vehicle crashes that were reported to the police and that involved at least one vehicle that had to be towed away from the accident site or the presence of emergency medical services.

After years of declining, the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents increased in 2015 by more than 7 percent over the preceding year. While traffic fatalities are no doubt due to factors beyond a driver's control, such as poor road maintenance or inclement weather conditions, most of them are due to human factors. When the negligence of a motorist is the cause of the death of a passenger or an occupant of another vehicle, the surviving family members may want to meet with an attorney to see how they can be compensated for their losses.

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