Stay awake at the wheel: your life depends on it

During the holidays there’s a lot of talk about drinking and driving. But another less discussed cause of serious accidents and fatalities on the road involves people who are driving fatigued and fall asleep at the wheel.In a sleep-deprived country like ours, you can bet there are plenty of people driving who shouldn’t be. Fatigue behind the wheel can also cause delayed reactions and poor judgment calls, such as overlooking a stop sign or a red light, or drivers not realizing they have drifted into oncoming traffic.According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 136 fatal crashes and 1,178 serious injuries reported in 2011 caused by fatigued or asleep drivers.Borger resident Charlotte Musgraves stated, “About two years ago coming home from Amarillo, I dozed off. It was in the middle of the afternoon on the Panhandle highway between here and Panhandle. My husband was in the car with me, but it was so quiet and I seriously think he had fallen asleep too, Because when I woke up, I was going over the little rumble strips in the center of the lanes. It scared the devil out of me. So now I demand that we talk or at least I not drive when I’ve had a long stressful day. I’m sure we were coming home from doctor’s visits. That highway is scary at times anyway.”A few studies show more than four percent of adults admit to falling asleep while driving. Though 4.2 percent said they actually fell asleep behind the wheel, researchers say the real number is much higher because many people don’t remember dozing off. Accidents involving sleepy drivers are more likely to be deadly or cause injuries, because people who fall asleep at the wheel either fail to hit their brakes or veer off the road before crashing.According to Lt. Anthony Griffin of the Borger Police Department, if you are driving and begin to feel sleepy, pull over to the side of the road and walk around. He also suggested drinking coffee and getting plenty of sleep. Or if possible, the best thing you could do is stop your car and take a short nap.Stay awake and conscious while driving. It not only means your life and the lives of those in the car with you, but everyone who is driving around you.