Howard R. Sanders, Esq.
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Beware of 'microsleeps' behind the wheel

If you're planning to drive, whether it's across town or across the country, it's important to be well-rested. After all, you are piloting a heavy and potentially lethal 2,000-pound (or more) weapon, so you need all of your wits about you.

A fatigued driver is at risk of succumbing to "microsleeps," or brief moments of lapsed consciousness when drivers are at extreme risk of getting into dangerous accidents.

Episodes of microsleep can last for only fractions of a second or as long as 10 seconds. It's a nuanced phase of sleep that is neither true rapid eye movement sleep (REM) nor nonrapid eye movement sleep (NREM). It doesn't last long enough for the person to fully enter into either phase of sleeping.

Regardless, it is very dangerous to drivers and all others they encounter on the road. Below are some warning signs of a microsleep episode.

  • Brief memory lapses
  • Inattentiveness
  • Hitting the rumble strip on the highway
  • Missing the exit you planned to take
  • Bobbing head
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Slumping over the wheel
  • Involuntarily releasing a held object
  • Having near-misses while driving

You may realize that you are experiencing microsleep or be totally oblivious to the danger. The problem occurs mostly at night when drivers are tired from work or driving yet push themselves to reach their destinations.

If you got into a car accident with another at-fault driver, microsleep may have caused or been a contributing factor to the collision. A car accident can leave victims injured and in need of costly and extended medical treatment, including months of rehabilitative therapies. Pursuing a claim for damages can result in financial compensation for the injuries and other damages that you suffered.

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