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Daylight saving time means drowsy driving, more crashes

Losing one hour of sleep for daylight saving time may not sound like much, but it can really affect driving performance for the worse. Ideally, every California motorist should be sleeping at least seven hours every night. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety warns that missing one to two hours of sleep in a 24-hour period can double one's risk for a car crash.

AAA goes even further, saying that those who rest only five hours in the previous 24 hours will act like drunk drivers when on the road. The level of impairment is roughly the same in both cases. Yet a third of respondents to a AAA survey admitted that they drove at least once in the previous month in a condition where they had difficulty keeping their eyes open. At the same time, 95 percent of respondents acknowledged the danger of drowsy driving.

If awareness is not the problem, then it appears that drivers are either unwilling to change their sleep schedules or dependent on short-term tactics for staying awake. Nevertheless, AAA emphasizes the fact that the only solution to drowsiness is adequate sleep.

Short-term tactics, including drinking coffee and rolling down the window, simply do not work. Drivers should pull over for a nap when the signs of drowsiness appear (lane drifting, trouble remembering the last few miles etc.).

Drowsiness behind the wheel is preventable. Even drivers with conditions like obstructive sleep apnea can take reasonable steps for treatment. When drivers do nothing, however, and cause auto accidents out of drowsiness, they will be at fault. Even if a victim contributes a certain percentage to the accident, they may still file an injury claim and be eligible for damages under the state's comparative negligence law. A crash victim may wish to hire a lawyer for negotiations or litigation.

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