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Virginia Tech study highlights driver fatigue

These days, Virginians are busier than ever. Whether it's rushing to work or rushing the kids off to extracurricular activities, countless state residents strive to keep up with the demands of daily life. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in cutting corners or even compromising safety. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute points to the continuing problem of driver fatigue, one of the primary causes of traffic incidents.

A driver's drowsiness has tremendous potential to cause an auto accident. Of course, falling asleep at the wheel can be catastrophic, but the study emphasizes how lack of alertness can affect safety before reaching that frightening point. Drivers who are tired can fail to notice their vehicles drifting into a different lane, for instance. Likewise, exhausted motorists can also notice things too late, such as an object in the roadway. More alert drivers can usually spot these things sooner, giving them time to react safely.

The Virginia Tech study involved 100 vehicles, all of which were equipped with sophisticated fatigue sensors. Researchers studied the behavior of the drivers right before a car accident. The results revealed that of the vehicle accidents they observed, 20% were related to driver fatigue, while 16% of the observed near-misses also shared that trait. The report also mentioned time of day as a factor that might relate to driver fatigue, as many of the accidents occurred in the early morning hours.

While the Strategic Highway Research Program continues that line of research, drivers in Virginia should be aware of their legal resources regarding accidents caused by driver fatigue. In cases involving personal injury, victims can often seek compensation for medical expenses, if it can be demonstrated convincingly that those injuries stemmed directly from the car crash.

Source: The Legal Examiner, "Study shows driver fatigue a serious problem," Mark Bello, April 29, 2013

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