The Dangers of Driving Drowsy During the Holidays

Over this past 4th of July holiday, a 65 year old San Jose woman, Verna File and her friend, Royce McFadden were killed in a rollover crash as they were returning home to California from a dog show in Missouri. Verna File and husband, Bill, were traveling with their their friends, Royce and Vickie Mc Fadenns, along with both couples’ bichon frise dogs. According to the Colorado State Patrol, Bill File was driving a 2000 GMC Yukon on Westbound Interstate 70 Saturday evening when he drifted into the center meridian. The SUV rolled over twice before landing on its top. Verna File and Royce McFadden,62, were declared dead at the scene, and Bill File and Vickie McFadden sustained serious injuries. The Colorado State trooper who was at the scene said the bichon frise dogs traveling with the couples were transported to the local veterinarian and that alcohol and drugs were not factors in the motor vehicle accident. The state patrol suspect driver fatigue as the contributing factor. If driver fatigue was truly a factor in the accident, we hope drivers pay attention and remember this story the next time they feel drowsy and want to get behind the wheel of a car.

Most people don’t think about driving long distances while feeling fatigued as seriously risky behavior or as behavior that has deadly consequences. Yet according to data put out by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) regarding research conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association(NHTSA)and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute(VTTI), the opposite is true. Their research measured real-world driver behavior through video and sensor devices on 100 vehicles over the course of one year, and researchers found:

• That nearly 80% of crashes and 60% near crashes recorded involved some type of
“driver inattention” within three seconds of the event • Drowsy driving was by far the leading cause of driver inattention • Driving drowsy increased a driver’s risk of a crash or near- crash by four to six times.

What is also interesting is how much people fail to realize how lack of sleep affects roadway safety, as stated in an article written by the NSF posted on DrivingDrowsy.org titled Drowsy Driving a Dangerous Yet Preventable Hazard for Holiday Drivers. In the article, Richard Gelula , NSF’s chief executive officer states, “drowsy driving may be just as dangerous as drunk driving because sleepiness results in slower reaction times and performance; reduced judgment and vision; delayed information processing and short term memory formation; and increased anger and moodiness.” He also makes a statement which we here at the Brod Law Firm find the most poignant of all: “Drowsy driving risks the life of not only the driver, but the lives of their passengers-family and friends-and other drivers on the road…the disastrous effects of fatigue related crashes can easily be prevented; all It takes is for people to recognize the problem and get off the road.” The NSF has put forth a set of warning signs that a driver should use to gauge when it is time to pullover and stop driving:

• Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking and/or heavy eyelids • Drifting from you lane, swerving, tailgating and /or hitting rumble strips • Yawning repeatedly • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven • Missing exits or traffic signs • Trouble keeping your head up
Here at the Brod Law Firm, we feel for the victims of this particular 4th of July accident, and we hope the readers of this information come away with a better understanding of what is at stake when anyone drives while feeling fatigued. The tips above we find invaluable when we consider how many lives could be saved every year if drivers followed them. We believe arriving at your destination safely is more important than drowsily driving in order to beat traffic or to arrive early at your destination.