Siegal & RichardsonLLP

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Falling asleep at the wheel: It can happen to anyone

Operating a motor vehicle is difficult enough when you're 100 percent alert and paying attention to everything happening around you. If you're drowsy for any reason, such as a lack of sleep or prescription drug use, it makes it more difficult to remain safe.

Even the safest drivers can fall asleep at the wheel, so it's important to protect against this. According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly 40 percent of Americans have fallen asleep at the wheel over the past year. While this doesn't always result in an accident, it definitely increases the chance of trouble.

How to protect yourself

The best way to protect against drowsy driving is to only get behind the wheel when you're alert and energized. Also, become familiar with the most common signs of drowsy driving, which include:

  • Frequent blinking and yawning
  • Daydreaming
  • Drifting from your lane of travel
  • Difficulty remembering the last few miles on the road
  • Feelings of aggression and irritability

It's also important to have a plan of action in the event that you become drowsy when driving. For example, you may have felt great when you left home, but after a few hours on the road, things take a turn for the worse.

If this happens, it's best to pull to the side of the road. From there, you can take a break or call someone else to drive you home. Either way, it's better than saying you'll be fine and hoping for the best.

What about other drivers?

Even if you're alert and feeling your best, it doesn't mean that every other driver is in the same position. There will always be people who aren't up to the task at hand when behind the wheel, such as truckers who have been on the road for too many consecutive hours.

If a drowsy driver strikes your vehicle, move to safety and call for help. Upon arriving, the responding officer can determine what went wrong and file a police report. Rely on emergency medical professionals to treat you at the scene and transport you to a local hospital for treatment.

Once you're on the path to recovery, review your insurance policy and contact your agent. This is also a good time to learn more about the cause of the crash, with a focus on how you can hold the drowsy driver responsible.

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