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Drowsy driving a bigger risk in New Jersey and across the US

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is a major contributing factor in 1.4 percent of all U.S. crashes each year. However, a study examining over 21,000 police-reported crashes from 2009 to 2013 released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests the actual incidence may be more than four times higher than the accepted government data indicates. Drowsy driving is considered a major risk factor in car accidents in New Jersey and elsewhere in the nation.

The AAA Foundation report concludes that government statistics rely heavily upon police reporting at a car accident scene, rendering the resulting data suspect. There is no way to effectively gauge the impact of drowsiness as a precursor to an accident once it has occurred, a problem which is compounded when the driver is dead or too severely injured to discuss the crash. Furthermore, many people either do not realize the effect drowsy driving has on their ability to safely operate a vehicle or fail to disclose the role drowsiness played in the accident.

The report suggests that instead of 1.4 percent of all car accidents being caused by drowsy drivers, the true percentage may be as high as 7 percent. Additionally, while the NHTSA says 2.5 percent of drowsy-driving car accidents are fatal, AAA estimates the real proportion is nearer to 21 percent.

An attorney examining a car accident case may wish to review witness and police statements and investigation reports to determine whether drowsiness, distractions and drugs and/or alcohol played a role in the accident. Based on this information and the severity of injuries and damage, the attorney might pursue a financial settlement with the driver, the driver's insurance company or other parties. The lawyer may also consider available civil court remedies.

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