Recently a Michigan bus driver was involved in a horrendous accident, in which his bus plowed into a total of eight cars. Take a look at this surveillance video:
You can see the driver calmly driving at the beginning, and then suddenly slamming his brakes as he sees that his vehicle is about to crash into another. He pulls over to the shoulder and slow down, but he takes out car after car as he decelerates. Amazingly, there was only one bus passenger onboard, and she was not injured; however, multiple people in the other vehicles were hurt. This 65 year-old driver, who reported that he felt that he had probably fallen asleep behind the wheel, now faces charges for having caused this accident.
Unfortunately, similar accidents (though usually not this dramatic) occur on American roads every day. It is estimated about 100,000 car accidents are reported every year in this country due to driving while drowsy or fatigued.
Why is drowsy driving so prevalent? Well, there are several reasons:
1. Daytime sleepiness can be a chronic issue that may not have resulted in substantial consequences for you . . . until you wreck your car. In other words, if you have felt sleepy during the day for years, but have never been in a wreck, you may fool yourself into believing that you may never get into an accident due to falling asleep, which, of course, is completely faulty reasoning.
2. Daytime sleepiness is not usually “painful,” per se–unless you’re in an accident because of it–and may not be viewed as an actual problem. If you’re used to falling asleep peacefully in front of the TV every day, you may view that tendency as just a harmless “thing you do” instead of a potential concern or medical issue.
3. Lots of people are chronically sleep-deprived, such as due to working several jobs, and so sleepiness may be viewed as just an inevitable component of everyday life. This doesn’t make daytime sleepiness normal!
Ironically and tragically, because sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea are becoming a substantially public policy issue because of their tendencies to cause fall-asleep car crashes, some professional drivers may choose to delay or even completely forego a medical evaluation for such problems for fear of losing their jobs or to spare themselves the hassle.
Bottom line: excessive daytime sleepiness can kill you if you’re behind the wheel or operating machinery. It’s better to pull over, rest, stop work, whatever it takes, than to keep on driving if you’re sleepy. It’s just not worth it to keep going, man. Imagine being the guy in the video. And if you’re excessively sleepy during the day despite proper amounts of sleep at night, I strongly recommend seeking medical attention for this brutal problem.