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A Drowsy Driving Tragedy

While we never hope for tragedy, we should learn from it.

This weekend, Bellaire High School senior Tobi Oyedeji, a high school basketball star who was planning to play at Texas A&M, was tragically killed in a car wreck.  Oyedeji was returning home from a school-sponsored after-prom party when he reportedly fell asleep, crossed the center line of the roadway, and hit another driver.  The other driver was pronounced dead at the scene, and Oyedeji died later.

As I said earlier, tragedy is always hard, but the least we can do is learn from it so that others are saved.

The first lesson from the wreck is about the dangers of drowsy driving.    That National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes occur each year as a result of driver fatigue.  These result in  an estimated 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries.    And these estimates may be on the low-side since there are no real tests to  check for fatigued drivers.

The National Sleep Foundation’s DrowsyDriving.Org website states that specific at-risk groups are:

  • Young people — especially males under age 26
  • Shift workers and people with long work hours –working the night shift increases your risk of a drowsy driving wreck by  nearly 6 times
  • Commercial drivers — especially long-haul drivers — at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue

The second lesson to be learned is that drowsy driving wrecks can happen to anyone.  By all accounts, Oyedeji was a great kid.  He was not only one of the top 100 high school basketball players in the country, he was also an academic star.  If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone. 

And it has.  The website has videos from such notables as Alex Trebek and actress Tyne Daly discussing their near-misses.  But they’re not alone.  The National Sleep Foundation conducted a survey that found 60% of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy and 37% admit to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year.  Those are scary and stunning numbers.

When we see these wrecks, as personal injury attorneys, they’re often horrific.  These aren’t usually rear-end accident cases.  They usually involve a fatigued driver veering across a center line or off a road or nodding off while going through an intersection, causing a high-speed collision.

Because these wrecks are so horrific, it’s important to be aware of some signs of problems.  The National Sleep Foundation suggests you stop and rest when you experience:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven, missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder or rumble strip
  • Feeling restless and irritable

If you find yourself experiencing any of those signs, heed the warnings. Don’t let you or your loved ones become the next tragic story.

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