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Crash risk increases with each hour of sleep lost

West Virginia motorists know the risks associated with drunk or distracted driving. However, they may not be aware that getting behind the wheel while sleep-deprived can be just as dangerous.

According to a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that was released on Dec. 6, drivers who get only five or six hours of sleep within 24 hours are twice as likely to have a car accident as drivers who sleep seven or more hours each day. Worse, the more sleep-deprived they are, the more likely they are to be involved in a crash. The report found that drivers who slept only four or five hours were four times more likely to crash. AAA obtained data for the report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's National Motor Crash Causation Survey.

Studies have shown that approximately 20 percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. are caused by fatigued drivers. The NHTSA reported that 35,092 people were killed in car crashes in the U.S. in 2015, which represented a 7.2 percent jump in fatalities over 2014. To combat fatigue, experts suggest taking a 10 to 20 minute nap every couple of hours during a long drive. Drivers should also get at least seven hours of sleep each night.

Auto accidents injure or kill thousands of Americans each year. Individuals injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a fatigued driver or drunk driver may wish to speak to an attorney about their legal rights. In some circumstances, legal counsel may recommend filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver that would seek compensation for the victim's medical bills and other losses.

Source: NPR, "Drivers Beware: Crash Rate Spikes With Every Hour Of Lost Sleep," Allison Aubrey, Dec. 6, 2016

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