Monday, December 3, 2007

Afternoon Fatalities Part of Sleepy Hollow Trend?

Posted by Greg Hambrick on Mon, Dec 3, 2007 at 10:52 AM

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A Sunday afternoon wreck on Interstate 95 killed four people, including a 16-year-old girl who was five months pregnant. Law enforcement hasn't determined the cause of the accident, but the reference in the Post and Courier story to no skid marks suggests the cause may have been fatigue or the driver falling asleep at the wheel.

We ran a story a few weeks ago about the unusually high rate of fatigue-related fatalities on Interstate 95. Particularly, the stretch from Orangeburg to the Georgia state line, which accounts for 11 percent of the state's busiest interstates, but accounts for 46 percent of the fatigue fatalities. The entire 200 mile stretch of I-95 through South Carolina is home to 77 percent of the fatigue fatalities.

One reader commented suggested these accidents almost always happen overnight. I had to correct him with a note that fatigue is a concern in the afternoon, just as long-distance, early-morning travelers are starting to wear out.

While getting off the road may be the easiest advice for tired drivers, it's more likely they'll take a stab at their own home remedies — caffeine pills, Red Bull, pinching themselves, sticking their head out the window, blaring the radio. Not surprisingly, some of these methods cause more harm than help.

While the sugary drinks and caffeine jolts provide short-term relief, it wears the body down in the long run, Brouthers says. Instead, he recommends drinking water or fruit drinks and to make frequent stops (enough water and fruit drinks would likely force a few stops, themselves). He also recommends that drivers listen to talk radio instead of tunes. While most would be reluctant to spend a car trip with Rush Limbaugh, he's likely to keep drivers engaged longer than songs they can mumble along with until they've passed out.

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Greg Hambrick
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