Sunday, August 12, 2007

Don't Drowse and Drive

Another cell phone shot. Josh is on the right.

Early Friday morning my 21 year old nephew, Joshua, was driving home and fell asleep at the wheel of his Jeep. He drove straight into a large oak tree on the side of the road and is thankfully alive to tell the tale. No, there was no alcohol or drugs in his system - the hospital checked him for that. He had spent the evening tooling about with my 16 year old niece and another friend. He had just dropped off my niece at home and was looking forward to a quick rest before heading off to work at 4:30 a.m.

I went out to Long Island yesterday to visit him in the hospital and give whatever support I could to my twin brother Larry, Joshua's father. Joshua's injuries are many (a broken nose, fractured wrist and knee, bruised ribs, lacerated chin and extensive damage to his mouth which required plastic surgery and many stitches, loss of his front teeth and three others, some damage to the spleen but that is unclear just yet, scraps and scratches from crawling through the driver's side window because the doors were unusable) but in time he will heal. The further details of the damage he sustained are too nasty to get into but our family is grateful that he survived. We are told it is a miracle he walked away from the wreck and if anyone was with him they would have surely perished.


Jack Nerad for Driving Today writes:

The U.S.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that
approximately 100,000 police-reported crashes annually involve drowsiness and/or
fatigue as a principal causal factor. Those crashes result in an estimated 1,500
fatalities and 71,000 injuries each year, and an annual monetary loss of
approximately $12.5 billion.

It is amazing the carnage isn't worse,
considering a recent survey by Farmers Insurance. More than 10 percent of
drivers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel, while more than 20 percent
say they have momentarily dozed while driving, according to the study of 1,024

Referred to as "the silent killer" because it is so often
overlooked as the cause of an accident, drowsy drivings full effect is not yet
known because reporting is imprecise, police are not trained to detect
sleep-related crashes and there is no Breathalyzer-like test to determine
whether someone was driving while dangerously drowsy. Click here to read more.

I guess I have underestimated the seriousness of falling asleep while driving, as have so many others. This is hard to believe given my encounters with it.

In January 2006 I got a call from my principal telling me that the mother of a boy in my class was killed in a car accident. She was driving home from work early in the morning and her exhaustion caught up with her. She fell asleep and slammed into a wall. I attended her funeral and seeing her two young children sobbing at her casket is a sight I never want to witness again.
More recently, a friend of mine departed for home after a night of light drinking and hanging out at another friend's house. Before he left I noticed he looked tired and I thought about trying to persuade him to crash where he was but blew off my worries because they seemed overly dramatic. Well, he fell asleep while driving and ran his car off the road. The car was totaled but he was unscathed.

There have been times when I have driven in a less than alert state. In those times I usually call my friend Joy who is usually awake at all hours or I roll down my window and blast the music. Last night it took me almost five hours to get home from L.I. after I left the hospital. I was getting quite tired myself and decided that I had better stop off and grab a cup of Joe (actually, that is exactly what it is called at Burger King).

So, do me and yourself a favor. Take this seriously. Do not drive if you are tired. Stay where you are if you can or pull over and take a power nap. The link above provides some tactics to fight drowsiness.

Josh was lucky. Let's not push it.


Cade said...

Oh nasty stuff! I hope he rcovers from that soon.
Thoughts are with you,


WAT said...

Hey handsome Uncle Gary, what a cute nephew.

WOW! I AM SO GLAD he's gonna be okay. Poor guy! Well, he's a bit beat up, but thankfully he's still young enough to recover nicely when this is all said and done.

We all betta get enuff sleep, 'cause I hear most of us in America don't.

la bellina mammina said...

I didn't know you have a twin bro!

I'm so glad he's ok! That must be so scary for him..

Florecita said...

Sending good vibes for his recovery and for all you and your family to be at peace...

Giving thanks he is alive!!!!!

laurenbove said...

Aw, what a nice and helpful post. I found you from WAT and I'm so glad I did. I love your children's book suggestions. I can't wait to amazon prime them to me in two day's for free. Yeah! Kids should be busy with those for a minute or two. I am also entirely impressed with your strong sense of humanity and kindess. Nice to find someone out there that still exhibits both.

Cheers, virtual amigo.

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Oh, this is a GOOD post - because falling asleep while driving is semi-common and, obviously, very dangerous. Sleep deprivation in general is so bad for your health, but Americans are very good at it. I wish you all the best - thank God it wasn't worse! *HUGS*

Junk Thief said...

Ouch, poor kid, but good to hear he survived and is on the mend. I've learned that driving under the influence of sleepiness is still a form of driving under the influence. I generally hate to drive, and if I need the sleep I get it and will arrive when I'm wide, awake and alive.

MONA said...

Gosh! That is terrible! I am so sorry about your nephew's accident! I hope & pray that he recovers fast!. My nephew too had a similar accident last year, smashing in a tree! he too sustained numerous injuries broken bones & concussions in the brain. But he recovered & is well now!
I hope Josh recovers fast too. He is young & he should easily cope up!

d. chedwick bryant said...

sending prayers to Joshua ... when I was Josh's age, I dozed at the wheel once, and, thankfully, another driver's panicked horn woke me.

I pulled over and napped fitfully--I never forgot this because it was so freezing--but I waited til the sun came up.

Pod said...

ouch! thank heavens he is ok!

Reya Mellicker said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your nephew. Thank goodness he survived. Much healing energy headed in his direction.

Yes, sleep, yes. It's a building block of good health, sound judgment, and good humor. As a culture we are seriously sleep deprived, not only while driving. Before electric light, people went to bed when it got dark. Now we avoid sleep as if it's something bad.

Sleep tight, be well. What a harrowing experience this must have been for you, too!

justawriter said...

Wonderful post! Thank God he survived this...I hope he gets well soon. Visit my blog when you get a chance...I have something for you :) Take care! Tina

Dumdad said...

I think we all have stories of friends or relatives who have fallen asleep at the wheel and crashed. My daughter's godfather was killed about five years ago in exactly that manner. He was 40. He is still sorely missed today.

There but the grace of God etc...

I wish your nephew a speedy recovery.

Gary said...

Cade, Wat, La Bellina, Florecita, JDZ-S, Mona, Ched, Reya, Pod, Tina and Dumdad thank you for all of the good thoughts and support. I appreciate it and will pass them along.

La Bellina - Yes, a twin named Larry. Orignal huh? Gary and Larry? Gotta love it!

Lauren - Welcome and thanks for visiting! I have popped over to your blog as well and got a kick out of the computer pictures. That is how I was when I first got my MAC in school. There are some fun features.

Also, thanks for the sweet words. Keep 'em coming. :)

Gregg - You hate to drive?! I love driving. I see it as an adult video game which sometimes is a bit dangerous I guess. Perhaps I can act as your chauffer?

Dumdad - You are right it seems everyone has some story about someone who fell asleep while driving. Given that it is odd that it is not an issue that is given much attention or is taken seriously by most people; certainly I was guilty of that attitude. I hope I am wiser now.



Christopher said...

Wishing your nephew a speedy recovery...poor boy sounds like he took a real beating...GREAT post here of something that we NEED to be reminded of.

Gary said...

Thanks Christopher! And yes, it is so easy to understimate the necessity for sleep. We are so programed to go, go, go. This sure opened my eyes.


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