Safety groups are marking the onset of early darkness by declaring this to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week nationally, as well as here in cloudy Western Washington.
Last year, there were seven deaths in the state related to sleepy driving, according to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission. Drowsy driving causes 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.
One out of six fatal crashes happened because somebody nodded off behind the wheel, according to statistics from the National Sleep Foundation. Besides pushing safety awareness, advocacy groups push for laws and technologies, including tougher regulation of rest periods for long-distance truckers.
Now that daylight savings time ended at 2 a.m. Sunday, Monday night will be the first weekday where darkness falls before 6 p.m., exposing pedestrians and cyclists to extra danger. Last week, Commute Seattle held a “Light Up Your Ride,” event at McGraw Plaza to distribute reflectors.
The local publicity campaign is led by William Shaw of Issaquah, whose daughter Mora suffered near-fatal brain injuries and broken bones in July 2006. She was a passenger in a car where the driver dozed off after nearly 24 hours without sleep, and crashed into the trees on Blewett Pass, William Shaw said.
Mora Shaw, then 17 years old, was rescued by a passing trauma nurse, transported to a hospital by helicopter, and spent three weeks in a coma. She went on to graduate from Western Washington University.
Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation regarding Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, and the Metropolitan King County Council is expected to pass a proclamation Monday.
“Every year, I get a little more traction,” said Shaw, publisher of the Reporter newspapers on the Eastside. “I’m just one man, one dad, and if I can save just one family from the hell we’ve been through, I’m happy.”
The Washington State Patrol recommends:
- Get a good night’s sleep before hitting the highway.
- Don’t be in a hurry to arrive to your destination.
- Take a break every two hours or 100 miles to help get refreshed.
- Use the buddy system to keep you awake and share driving duties.
- Avoid alcohol and medication that may cause drowsiness or have side effects.
- Don’t drive when you would normally be sleeping.