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Less than 6 hours of sleep raises risk for car crash

Residents of New Jersey may want to think about how much sleep they are getting and how that affects their driving abilities. Experts recommend between seven and nine hours of sleep, but surveys from the U.S. Department of Transportation and other organizations show that about one in three adult drivers fails to get this much. This is important to know because drowsy driving accounts for 7 percent of all car crashes in the U.S., including 16 percent of fatal crashes.

A study published in the SLEEP journal has quantified the risk based on how many hours of sleep drivers get. For its data, researchers relied on a U.S. DOT study that analyzed 5,470 crashes. This study included interviews with many of the drivers involved.

Researchers concluded that getting six, five or four hours of sleep raises the risk for a crash 1.3, 1.9 and 2.9 times, respectively. Most alarming of all, those who sleep less than four hours are 15.1 times more likely to crash. Their behavior behind the wheel will be similar to an intoxicated driver with a blood alcohol level 1.5 times above the legal limit.

The study also points out that driving three or more hours without a break will lead to drowsiness. Drowsy driving is inattentive driving, causing drivers to make mistakes like misjudging gaps in traffic.

Drowsy driving is a form of negligence. Therefore, someone who incurs a car accident injury and finds out from the police that the other driver was drowsy may be able to seek compensation. This means filing a claim against that driver's auto insurance company and facing the resistance of a team of lawyers. A victim may then want to hire their own lawyer. Once the case is built up, legal counsel can negotiate for a fair settlement and litigate if one cannot be agreed upon.

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