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What California drivers should know about sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation can affect drivers in a way similar to alcohol. The National Sleep Foundation says that a driver who is awake for 24 hours will act like one with a blood alcohol content of .10; a person is legally drunk at .08. Yet a AAA survey found that nearly one person in three had at least once in the previous month driven in so drowsy a state that their eyelids were drooping.

There are several factors that contribute to the trend in drowsy driving. One is lack of sleep. The CDC recommends at least seven hours every night. Another is the use of prescription sleep aids. Though the directions usually say that users should sleep seven to eight hours afterwards, a 2018 Consumer Reports survey shows that one in five Americans who take the drugs go out driving within seven hours of taking them.

Other prescription and over-the-counter drugs can induce drowsiness, including antidepressants, blood pressure medications and antihistamines. Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea play a role, too, so those who feel sleepy even after seven hours' rest should see a doctor.

Drivers on a long trip should take a break every two hours. A 15- to 20-minute nap is advisable when drivers notice the symptoms of drowsiness such as drooping eyelids, trouble staying in one's lane and so on. Caffeine, about 150 milligrams, will temporarily boost alertness.

If drowsy driving is to blame for a car accident, those who are injured through little to no fault of their own may be able to recover damages. This means filing a third-party insurance claim. The best-case scenario is that the auto insurance company settles out of court, compensating the victim for medical bills, vehicle damage, lost wages and whatever else is applicable. Victims may want to hire a lawyer, though, because the other side will likely be aggressive in denying payment.

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