Falling Asleep at the Wheel: Deadly Consequences
I could recite fact after fact about falling asleep at the wheel. I could tell you that according to a study done by the CDC that 1 in 25 drivers have admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel during the last 30 days. I could also tell you that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they estimate that over 100,000 accidents each year are attributed to to drowsy driving and sleep deprivation. I could spew out fact after fact but facts are boring. They don’t tell us the faces behind the 100,000 people who are impacted by falling asleep at the wheel. Maybe you drive drowsy, exhausted from sleep deprivation, exhausted from a long day at work or from staying up all night with the baby. The truth is that everyone has days where they lack sleep. Late night party? Early morning meeting? Picking a friend up from the airport? Getting a call at 2:00 am to pick up a drunk relative? The list goes on…
The first time my life was impacted by drowsy driver was when my sister-in-law, Kelly, was involved in an accident. Kelly was driving to work early one morning on a freeway that was divided by a grass median. A driver coming home from a graveyard shift fell asleep, crossed the median and crashed head on into her car. Kelly was lucky - she lived. She walked away with her life but she also walked away with a broken leg and ankle. Seven years later, Kelly still has PTSD from the accident and her ankle never healed properly. One family dramatically impacted because of a person who was exhausted and sleep deprived decided to drive home. Often times we don’t feel like we have a choice or we may be embarrassed to call a friend or family member. Drowsy driving is the equivalent of drunk driving. It’s okay to admit that you are tired and you need help. You may feel you can combat drowsy driving by rolling down the window, grabbing a red bull and riding it out. You may think that your choices will only impact yourself - until they don’t. 91 people died on Utah roads this summer due to drowsy driving from fatigue or distracted driving from cell phones. Reality check: drive drowsy and killing someone equals jail time. It’s a deadly consequence for the receiving person and a lifetime of guilt for you.
You may think that the real culprits of distracted driving and drowsy driving are not the every day population zipping from one place to another but are long haul truck drivers. In a recent high profile sleep deprived accident, Kevin Roper, truck driver for Walmart, recently hit comedian Tracy’s Morgan limo bus, injuring four people and killing one person. This has brought recent scrutiny of professional truck drivers that commute long haul. These professional drivers are not the culprits. Fatigue related accidents are the result of every day, sleep deprived people. Look no further than a car near you. Truck drivers are highly trained, professional drivers that can literally drive circles around the every day driver. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, large trucks accounted for only 13% of all passenger related deaths.
When all is said and done, please remember that drowsy driving spans across all walks of life, all socioeconomic positions, all genders, all ages and all personalities. Don’t deceive yourself by thinking it couldn’t happen to you. Just don’t. Don’t go down that path. If you are tired, call someone. Call a friend or family member. Pull the car over somewhere safe and lock you doors. Recline your seat and sleep. There is no appointment, no party, no job that is worth your life or the life of the person driving next to you. Combat drowsy driving.