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San Jose personal injury attorney, drowsy drivingAs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continually surveys the quantity and quality of our sleep habits and the devastating events associated with the lack thereof, sleep is now recognized as a public health issue. 

Moreover, the exploration of behaviors and disorders are also being closely monitored as our sleeping habits are now linked to motor vehicle accidents, personal injuries, industrial disasters, and even medical and other occupational errors. 

Another leading authority, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reports that driving while drowsy can be dangerously compared to driving while under the influence of alcohol, but without the benefit of a breathalyzer.

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For many people, no matter their profession, a morning cup of coffee is as habitual as a morning shower. It is just part of their routine, a way to prepare oneself for the trials of the day. For truck drivers, however, a study suggests that coffee is a bit more: it is a potential life-saver.

An Australian study questioned hundreds of commercial drivers. The subjects were asked about their caffeine consumption, hours slept, hours behind the wheel and other questions related to their health such as whether they suffered from sleep apnea. With variables in mind, the researchers came up with a pretty clear conclusion.

According to the research, drivers who consistently drank caffeine, whether as coffee, energy drinks, soda, etc., were significantly less likely to have gotten into a truck accident. Specifically, the study indicates that caffeine consumption can reduce the risk of truck accidents by about 63 percent.

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While distracted driving is one of the most common reasons for a traffic accident, it seems there's another concern for those on the road. A recent study conducted in 19 states and the District of Columbia and involving 147,000 drivers revealed about 4 percent of those drivers had nodded off at least once while driving in the last month.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the study, estimate the actual number may be higher, as many drivers don't realize it when they momentarily doze off. When this happens, it is highly likely that a car accident will ensue and individuals may become injured or fatally wounded.

Those most likely to fall asleep are men, people from 25 to 34 years of age, and those who averaged less than six hours of sleep per night. Surprisingly, Texans also showed a greater propensity for dozing off behind the wheel. According to the study's lead author, the sampling of Texans used in the study may have included larger numbers of young adults not getting enough sleep or overweight adults with sleep apnea.

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Imagine being able to nod off behind the wheel when driving fatigue sets in. As your eyelids droop and your head starts getting heavy, the car takes over, allowing you to drift off to sleep instead of drifting off the road and getting into a car accident.

Auto manufacturing technology hasn't quite gotten there yet, but industry leaders are trying to lessen the risks of drowsy driving by putting more safeguards into new cars. The Ford Motor Company announced last month that it's offering "lane-keeping technology" as an option for two of its 2013 models. It relies on a camera mounted to the rear-view mirror. When the system is on and the vehicle is traveling more than 40 mph, it uses the road's lane markings to detect veering toward one edge or the other. If the turn signal is off, the system assumes the veering is unintentional and will send a vibration to the steering wheel as a warning. If the driver doesn't respond by turning the wheel, the software is designed to engage the power steering and turn the car toward the center by itself.

But as with most new technology, there are some kinks to work out. The system doesn't work as well if the lane markers can't be detected, such as on curves in the road, in heavy rain or snow or while driving into direct sunlight. Not surprisingly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to give the system its approval. But other automakers have already introduced similar technology, which is more prevalent in Europe.

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