Garrison Murphy ’15
You’re driving down a poorly lit street, eyes barely open.
Suddenly you wake up on the wrong side of the road seconds from a collision.
This situation may sound like the makings of a nightmare, but for some students this is a reality.
“The next thing I knew I was on the wrong side of Camelback,” said Matt Figueroa ’15. “If I hadn’t woken up I don’t know if I would be here today.”
Figueroa said that he often finds himself sleepy after track practice or play rehearsal.
He acknowledges that it is dangerous, but hard to avoid.
Nolan Weinstein ’14 briefly fell asleep at the wheel after a PSAT preparation class during his sophomore year, but unlike Figueroa he wasn’t able to avoid a crash.
“I dozed off and rear ended a car while going approximately 45 miles per hour,” Weinstein said. “Fortunately both of us were OK, but if I had drifted one lane over I would have hit oncoming traffic … which in that case a fatality would have likely happened.”
He said that a lack of sleep is the usual cause of dozing at the wheel, but in his case it was because of working through lunch and not eating his usual meal of two sandwiches, yogurt and chips.
More than 250,000 drivers fall asleep at the wheel every day in the United States, according to a study done at Harvard Medical School. An investigation done by the United States Department of Transportation showed that male drivers are two times more likely to fall asleep while driving than females.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported sleeping and driving has been a cause in more than 100,000 accidents in the United States annually.
“People who get approximately six hours or less sleep a night for two weeks function at the same cognitive ability as someone who is illegally drunk,” said AP Psychology teacher Mr. Matt Williams ’07.
Mr. Williams cited a phenomenon called “micro-sleep” as a danger to drivers who are lacking sleep.
“It’s when you are extremely sleep deprived … and your brain goes into almost emergency mode and what it will do is shut down from a couple of seconds to up to 30 seconds,” Mr. Williams said. “What happens during this time is your brain goes into immediate REM … the person affected doesn’t even know what happened.”
He said that if a student were to find himself driving drowsy the best course of action besides pulling over is to not take risks, give other drivers space on the road and drink a cup of coffee if the drive is short.