The dangers of drowsy driving | Guest editorial

  • Monday, November 6, 2017 12:20pm
  • Opinion

By Mora Shaw

Eleven years ago, a drowsy-driving car wreck left me with injuries that still challenge me today.

In the accident, my ankle was crushed so bad that I am never able to run again and I will need more surgery on it throughout my life. From my hips to my feet, my body is held together with plates and screws. I received a traumatic brain injury and lost more than two years of my life at the hospital and in rehab. I am only 29 years old but have early age arthritis.

The driver who fell asleep at the wheel of the car I was riding in told me just last year that she “got over” the accident years ago and has moved on with her life. But my damaged body, brain and spirit will never get over it. Every single day, my aches and pains remind me of that driver’s poor decision to drive a car when she had not slept for almost 24 hours.

Our lives are busy and fast paced — and we as a society just don’t get enough sleep. Drowsy driving is a national health and safety problem that we need to take seriously. The consequences of getting behind the wheel of a car after being awake for 18-24 hours is devastating. I beg you to pause and think before you get behind the wheel of a car when you are tired. The result can be injury or death to you or others.

The goal of our family’s drowsy driving awareness campaign is to get people’s attention about the dangers of drowsy driving. If we save one life or prevent one person from getting terrible life-changing injuries like mine, or if we prevent one family from going through years of hell like mine did, then our job will be done.

Why do we keep talking about drowsy diving every November? People ask my family all the time. Because we continue to see stories in the news about accidents from drowsy driving in which people are injured or killed. And it can so easily be avoided with proper sleep and mindfulness when getting behind the wheel of the car.

The Shaw family have made it their mission to educate the public on the all-too-often tragic consequences of driving while drowsy. In addition to Gov. Jay Inslee’s 2017 Washington State Drowsy Driving Prevention and Awareness Week proclamation — which is this week — the Shaw family have also partnered with the Washington State Patrol, Washington State Traffic Safety Commission, AAA of Washington, Washington State Department of Transportation and King County Sheriff’s Office in their efforts to promote drowsy driving awareness and prevention in Washington. The statewide proclamation is also in concert with the National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving website: drowsydriving.org.

The car following Mora Shaw’s car crash. Courtesy of the Shaw family

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