SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – In wake of Saturday’s 4-car Provo Canyon crash, which occurred when a driver fell asleep at the wheel, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) hosted a Zero Fatalities event to raise awareness of the danger of drowsy driving.
According to UDOT, human error causes 94 percent of crashes in Utah, and Zero Fatalities is a campaign aimed at educating the public on how to decrease unsafe driving behaviors.
John Gleason, UDOT Public Information Officer, said at the Thursday event that drowsy driving occurs more often during the summer months and affects everyone.
“The thing that’s unique about drowsy driving is it affects every one of us. Not all of us drink; hopefully, none of us drink and drive. Not all of us are aggressive drivers. But, all of us are susceptible to becoming tired,” Gleason said.
Dr. Kristofer Mitchell, Trauma Medical Director at St. Mark’s Hospital, said that driving drowsy is just as dangerous as driving drunk.
“There are several studies out there which have pointed towards, how do we equate a tired brain to a drunk brain? And the reaction times are very similar,” Mitchell said. “And so, if you just skip two hours of sleep and get behind the wheel, your brain actually acts like you are under the influence of alcohol.”
Mithcell recommended that those going on long road trips first get a full night’s sleep, drive during hours when normally awake, and take power naps when needed.
According to a UDOT, drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 are most likely to engage in drowsy driving.
At age 19, Chris Draper was in a crash after falling asleep at the wheel. His car rolled six or seven times after veering off the road. He said that the fact he was wearing a seatbelt saved his life.
“I smashed my window open with my head, and I remember watching the glass really slowly go past me. And the sky went from blue to dirt within an instant, so I would’ve been thrown from the car.”
Following this incident, Draper said he has been very careful to avoid driving when tired.
“One thing that I’ve learned from this accident is never ever drive drowsy ever again. When I’m driving, if I even get to the point where I feel my head nod, I’m like okay, I’ve gone too far,” he said. “I don’t care where I am. I pull over on the side of the freeway, roll my windows down, and take a nap.”