By Madison Graham
Let’s start out with this staggering fact: Texas leads the nation in drowsy driving related deaths. In 2016, 6,000 people died due to fatigued driving. The crazy thing is, I know three people that have been involved in fatigued driving crashes.
It’s crazy how we think we are invincible, but our bodies need proper sleep to function.
I went to a high school that was very small and everyone knew you were in trouble if you didn’t show up for class. You couldn’t really get away with it. In high school, I had a really close friend named Kyle. He was a really sweet and quiet boy. He never got into trouble and his smile could light up the room. His mom worked at the school, too.
So, you can imagine it was really alarming when Kyle’s mom came into our classroom that morning asking us if we had seen Kyle. As we all looked at her with blank stares and shook our heads, I knew as the color drained from her face that her boy was in fact not sick, but should be here in class with us that morning.
We got the news about thirty minutes later. Kyle had been in a car crash and was at the local hospital. We were horrified. How did this happen? Kyle never did drugs or drank alcohol, and he lived on a country road, so… maybe he hit a deer? We just had no idea what had happened and I was so scared that I would never see my friend again. A few of us went to visit him at the hospital after school that day. He was in pretty rough shape. Purple and black marks covered his face, and his neck was secured with a brace. He was conscious when we came in and he flashed us his infamous smile as we entered the room.
His response to our “what happened?” cries were not what we were expecting. He said he had fallen asleep at the wheel. Completely just nodded off. The next thing he knew, he was in the ambulance riding to the hospital. I just couldn’t believe it. I guess I never realized how dangerous driving drowsy was because I did it all the time. I’ll be fine, I would always say to myself, I can make it.
We need to stop telling this to ourselves. It’s truly not worth it. Obviously, the answer is “get more sleep,” but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. If you find yourself driving and you start to feel drowsy, pull over and rest your eyes for a bit. Go into a convenient store to stretch your legs and grab some coffee. Maybe call a friend to help you stay awake. Another tip (this one is my favorite) is to open up Spotify and blast your favorite 90’s jam and belt your heart out. Singing in the car to Christina Aguilera, Brittney Spears, and P!nk is probably one of my favorite activities.
Bottom line: Try to get 8 hours of sleep. If you can’t, find ways that will help you stay awake at the wheel. For more information on how to combat drowsy driving visit; www.drowsydriving.org.
Madison Graham is a student at the University of Texas obtaining her master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning. She loves all things transportation, and her focuses include bicycle and pedestrian accessibility and safety.