Virginia drivers need to be vigilant about drowsiness on the road because it can impair their attention, judgment and reaction times. Drowsiness is so serious that it triples the risk for a car crash. In its effects, it’s often compared to drunk driving. Going without sleep for 20 straight hours is like having a blood alcohol concentration of .08%.

There is another effect of drowsiness that should give drivers pause, and it’s called microsleep. This refers to involuntary periods of inattention that last around four or five seconds. For a driver going at highway speed, during one of these microsleep periods, he or she could travel the length of a football field without watching the road.

The consequences of drowsy driving are clear. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that there are 328,000 drowsy driving crashes every year. Of these, approximately 109,000 result in injuries and 6,400 in death. According to NHTSA, the annual cost of those drowsy driving crashes involving injury or death is around $109 billion, and this is not even including property damage.

Adults should sleep at least seven hours a night. In addition, they could install crash-avoidance technology like lane departure warning to help prevent drowsy driving crashes. Employers and universities could set up educational programs, too, to raise awareness of the danger.

Ultimately, though, it’s up to drivers if they want to be negligent or not. Victims of motor vehicle accidents should know that they may be able to file a personal injury claim if the defendant was 100% at fault. Virginia follows the strict rule of pure contributory negligence, so it may be beneficial to have a lawyer evaluate the case in light of this. Drowsy driving can be hard to prove, but with a lawyer, victims may get the assistance they need.