Our family hadn’t either until May 5, 2002. That night Kyle lost his life to a driver that fell asleep at the wheel. What a tragedy. For both families. Kyle was just a few minutes from home walking around the block with a friend. The driver was just a few miles from his home. If only things had turned off differently.
Take a minute. Talk to the drivers in your family. Tell them to call a friend or family member if they feel too tired to get behind the wheel. Talk to yourself, too. Have you ever driven knowing that you were really tired? I know I have. What if I would have hurt or killed someone? I would never get over that, just like the 17 year old that took away our only son, only brother, only grandson, only nephew, cousin, and best friend…
Think about it. Make a plan for what you will do if you’re ever too tired to drive. Believe me, it’s worth thinking about. According to the National Sleep Foundation:
• 37 percent or 103 million drivers admit falling asleep at the wheel.
• Sixty percent of drivers say they've driven while drowsy.
• Driver fatigue accounts for an estimated 368,000 crashes each year.
• Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids.
• Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts.
• Trouble remembering the last few miles driven.
• Missing exits or traffic sign.
• Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes.
• Trouble keeping your head up.
• Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip.
• Feeling restless and irritable.
• Get off the road as soon as safely possible if you experience any warning signs.
• Get out of the car to get blood and oxygen flowing.
• Find a safe, well-lit location and drink a caffeinated beverage and take a 30 minute nap. Then you’ll be better prepared to make good decisions about your driving ability.
• Drive with a friend. A passenger needs to remain awake to watch for signs of fatigue and take a turn driving.
According to NHTSA, more than 5,000 people die every year in teen-related car crashes, and teens are not the only ones dying. Teen drivers’ high crash risk affects their passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers. Keeping teens safe on the roads is the responsibility of everyone.
Returning to later, healthier, safer, evidence-based school hours is a reform with the potential to improve the health, safety, and academic achievement of all students. The health and safety benefits to starting school at times more in sync with the sleep needs and patterns of students are irrefutable.