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How many people fall asleep behind the wheel?

Have you ever nodded off behind the wheel? Maybe you didn't fully fall asleep, per se, but you suddenly jerked your head up and opened your eyes. You felt your heart start pounding as you realized that, at least for a split second, you were out -- and the car was still moving.

Most people have experienced this, but what is the true scope of the problem? It's greater than a lot of people realize.

According to some studies, about 21% of all deadly wrecks occur because of the actions -- and inaction -- of drowsy drivers. Overall, drowsy driving leads to roughly 7% of total crashes. This shows that it's disproportionately likely to cause a fatality.

When asked if they had fallen asleep behind the wheel, 37% of drivers claimed it had happened to them before. This took into account their entire lives. When asked specifically about the last 12 months, that dropped to 11%. Researchers then asked about the last month, and it fell to 4%. Of course, this is self-reporting, so it is not perfect.

It is worth noting that not all drowsy driving accidents happen because people fall asleep. Just being too tired behind the wheel can lead to worse reaction times and distraction. You could be fully awake but exhausted and still cause an accident.

Of course, just staying awake and alert on the road, while wise, does not guarantee that another driver will not hit you. If this happens and you suffer serious injuries, make sure you know what rights you have to financial compensation.

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