Losing just one or two hours of sleep can make drivers in Wyoming and around the country almost twice as likely to crash according to the American Automobile Association. Researchers from the Florida-based nonprofit group’s Foundation for Traffic Safety say that driving after sleeping for five hours or less impairs motorists as much as having a blood alcohol concentration higher than the .08 percent legal limit. According to the AAA, drivers need at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep to operate a car, pickup truck, or SUV safely.

The issue of drowsy driving frustrates road safety organizations because polls reveal that people are aware of the dangers but routinely choose to ignore them. About 95 percent of motorists consider driving while fatigued irresponsible and unacceptable, but almost a third of them also admit to driving while dangerously drowsy at least once in the past month.

Many of these drivers got behind the wheel despite being tired because they thought that drinking a cup of coffee, opening a window or raising the volume of their stereos would keep them alert. Experts say that these techniques do not work and may do more harm than good. According to groups like The National Sleep Foundation, rest is the only way to prevent the brain from overriding efforts to stay awake.

While motorists who have been involved in a car accident are rarely eager to admit that they fell asleep behind the wheel, police are often able to determine that fatigue played a role by the absence of evasive action. The kind of evidence that leads police to this conclusion, such as he information stored on automobile data recorders, could also be used by experienced personal injury attorneys to establish recklessness in lawsuits filed on behalf of accident victims.