Friday 21 October 2016

What happened the day I fell asleep at the wheel and lived to tell the tale

Tell Eddie...

Published 29/07/2015 | 02:30

Tiredness is a significant factor in road accidents
Tiredness is a significant factor in road accidents

Eddie, I was one of the lucky ones who got away with falling asleep at the wheel. Coming home from golf in mid-afternoon, after lunch and one drink, I felt drowsy and knew I could nod off at any moment. I knew there was a parking area some 5km ahead and decided I would stop there. I was confident I could keep myself awake for the short time.

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I awoke to find the car heading across the grass margin at 45 degrees to the road. It was too late to stop or even swerve out. The car continued down a steep bank with two wheels in the air. The car lurched sideways, tore along a tree, which acted like a brake and came to halt snared by a fencing wire that ran taut up the windscreen.

The seat belt didn't tighten or the airbag deploy. The tree acting as a brake and the fence wire with some 'give' brought the car to a halt without a sudden impact. How lucky was that? The car was a write-off but I wasn't. I found out afterwards that it was just 1.4km to the car park I had decided on.

Now I'm more careful to stop on time, though the temptation is always there to go on to a better place or a service station with coffee. Better to stop, pull in, have the nap and a walk around. Then go on to a cafe or service area. John

Eddie, Your article is so true. I work in the emergency services and the most frightening thing is your employer thinks you are a robot. After driving from one end of the country to the other with a patient on board it is not simply a matter of stopping for a mini break. Derek

Eddie, I am delighted to see there is to be an ad on the dangers of driver fatigue. I had a near-mortal miss a few years ago. I was driving back from Wexford on a warm Saturday afternoon. I had driven down that morning and was already tired and stressed as my husband was ill. I was looking for somewhere to pull in but traffic was heavy and there were no lay-bys. Next thing I knew I had crashed. The airbags popped up with a sort of puff of smoke. I initially thought the car had gone on fire. The car veered across the road and ended upside down in a garden. Then I heard a voice saying: "Are you okay?" This happened to be a doctor who was driving behind and saw me swerve across the road, hit a fence and land upside down. I had to be cut out of the car and taken to Wexford hospital. Luckily all I needed were a few stitches to my head. I had bruising across my body. The car was a write-off.

I was incredibly lucky because just as I nodded off there was no traffic coming in the opposite direction and I was not driving fast. I was upside down in the car and was not aware of that at the time. There was a photo of the car and a short article in the local newspaper the following week. (which I have kept as a reminder). Liz

Eddie, I've been driving trucks for 20 years and tiredness is a major problem especially when you're driving internationally, the reason being hours on a boat to the UK at night. You can't sleep and if you do sleep then it's broken to disembark. Then your tiredness makes you feel kind of numb and then you're expected to drive 9/10/11 hours with 45min break. That's when you get into danger mode but you can't stop driving. You must get to the next boat. Now you're all over the place, can't eat because you are too tired when you arrive in France.

This is the norm week in week out. It's so dangerous. Tachograph rules don't work because if you're tired your tacho can't tell you? You keep going. It's up to the drivers to stop if they are tired. I gave up trucking because of tiredness, permanent bags under my eyes. I hope people heed the warning on driver fatigue. Patrick

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