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Tiredness could be behind a number of Chicago car accidents

Measures designed to raise public consciousness about the serious dangers of drunk driving have brought that topic to the forefront of discussions about car crashes. Recently, the many facets of distracted driving have received similar attention from the press. Tired driving has not been the subject of as much coverage, however, despite posing risks close to those created by driving under the influence.

Drivers have long battled sleepiness on the roads. Remedies such as rolling down the window, singing along to the radio and drinking caffeinated beverages have all been pressed into service to stave off the gradual drooping of eyelids. But according to authors of a recent study, there is no solution that helps prevent tiredness-induced car accidents better than a sufficient amount of rest before heading out on the road.

The foreign study was conducted by French researchers, who posed a questionnaire to patients admitted to a hospital after being in a car crash. They asked the patients how much they had slept before the crash and whether they were on any medications. The answers, in conjunction with blood alcohol tests and information from police reports, led researchers to conclude that being tired or drunk created a twofold greater risk that a driver would cause a car accident when compared with someone who had not been drinking and had enough sleep.

Specifically, researchers discovered that pulling an all-nighter then driving has the same effect on a driver's abilities as having a blood alcohol content of 0.19. This brings into sharp relief the dangers of driving after missing sleep. Naps can help, said the researchers. Drivers have a duty to follow a standard of care when they are out on the road. Depending on the circumstances, failing to get enough rest may indicate a breach of that duty.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Sleepy, drunken drivers equally dangerous: study," Andrew M. Seaman, May 30, 2012.

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