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Almost one third of respondents to a AAA survey said that they drove drowsy to the point of having drooping eyelids at least once in the previous month. Drowsy driving is a serious danger, and even the best-intentioned drivers cannot avoid it. In its effects, sleep deprivation has been compared to alcohol. The National Sleep Foundation says driving after being awake for 24 hours is like driving with .10 percent blood alcohol content.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night. Those who find themselves drowsy even after this should see a doctor since they may have a sleep disorder. For example, obstructive sleep apnea is marked by pauses in breathing while one is sleeping, and this disruption will naturally lead to drowsiness in the day. A doctor could also adjust the regimen of a patient’s medications to prevent sleepiness on the road.

If drivers are slightly drowsy and yet need to head out, they can have a companion with them for conversation. The companion could also substitute behind the wheel. During long trips, drivers should watch for droopy eyelids, drifting out of lanes and onto rumble strips, difficulty remembering the last few exits and other warning signs. They should take a break every two hours and, if necessary, a 15- to 20-minute nap.

Driving while sleep-deprived can be a form of negligence, and people who have been injured in auto accidents caused by such a motorist might be able to receive compensation for their medical expenses and other losses. They might want to meet with an attorney to learn how they should proceed with their claim.