How to avoid drowsiness behind the wheel

Every year in Ohio and across the U.S., drowsy driving leads to some 6,000 fatal car crashes. Lack of sleep is not the only culprit; drivers may suffer from an undiagnosed sleep disorder or take medications that cause drowsiness. Shift work and alcohol consumption also contribute to this alarming trend. Below are some tips that drivers can consider to avoid drowsiness behind the wheel.

The first tip is to recognize the symptoms of fatigue: frequent blinking and yawning, trouble maintaining one's lane and trouble remembering the last few miles driven. People whose line of work prevents them from getting much sleep, such as big rig, tow truck and bus drivers, should be especially wary. If they are drowsy and still have a while to go before reaching their destination, they should pull over for a 15- to 20-minute nap.

The CDC recommends a minimum of seven hours of sleep for adults and eight hours for teenagers. Drivers should develop a sleep schedule and stick to it. Possible signs of a sleep disorder, such as snoring, should encourage drivers to see a doctor. Before taking any medications, drivers should check the label to learn the side effects. If people take sleep aids, they should not drive before achieving the designated amount of sleep.

Drowsy driving may be an under-reported phenomenon because police may not always be able to tell whether the parties involved were drowsy or not. In the event that a person is injured in a traffic accident because of a drowsy driver, they may file a personal injury claim and, if successful, be reimbursed for medical expenses and other economic and non-economic damages. Victims may want a lawyer to evaluate their case and see if it holds up to Ohio's comparative negligence laws.

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