Most of us have had the experience of driving while we’re fatigued: The soothing hum of tires on the road starts to lull you, your eyelids begin to droop and your chin starts to fall — before you snap back to life suddenly and realize you need a jolt of energy. This scenario may be common, but that doesn’t make it safe. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, about 1 in 6 fatal car accidents involves drowsy driving, which can be just as dangerous as driving while drunk or distracted.
A recent crash in Easton, Maryland, speaks to the dangers of driving on too little sleep. A 17-year-old boy from Glenelg was driving west on a multi-lane road last Thursday morning when he fell asleep, causing him to drive off the road and into the median. He woke up suddenly and attempted to take control of the vehicle, but overcompensated and swerved in and out of both westbound lanes, eventually crossing into the path of an eastbound SUV.
The SUV crashed and rolled, landing on its roof in a nearby field. Another driver attempted to avoid the collision but also served off the road and into the field. A total of four people suffered injuries.
The 51-year-old woman driving the SUV, who was traveling with her 19-year-old daughter, suffered the most serious injuries. She was rushed to a hospital and remains in “very, very critical” condition, according to her mother. Her injuries include a broken femur, a collapsed lung and crushed ribs.
The SUV driver happens to be the Emergency Medical Services Coordinator for Washington County. She had little chance of predicting that an oncoming car would cause such a serious collision, and this is the nature of drowsy driving accidents. They can happen so quickly in the few seconds that a fatigued driver closes his eyes, and yet they’re easily preventable. A quick roadside nap could have given the teen driver just enough energy to get to his destination safely, without causing an accident that has left a family desperately worried about their loved one’s survival.
Source: ABC 2 News, “Sleeping driver injures four people,” June 14, 2012