Drowsy Driving Crashes On the Rise In Texas

AUSTIN (Nexstar) - Christi Montemayor has vivid memories of the July day on State Highway 95 in Bastrop County.

“All of a sudden my mom was like, ‘Hey, watch out for that guy, he seems to not be paying attention,’” Montemayor said. “Literally within seconds, he’s in the grass and he’s overcorrecting and he’s hitting the front of my car.”

Montemayor said her mother’s legs were stuck in the dashboard when she looked over. She and her mother sustained severe injuries and she says both medical expenses combined added up to half a million dollars.

“I remember screaming, but it wasn’t because I was afraid. I was afraid for my mom because she already has pre-existing conditions,” Montemayor said.

It wasn’t until reading the police report when Montemayor learned the other driver likely nodded off behind the wheel.

“He had said he had just come off a double shift, being awake at four in the morning and having only two, three hours of sleep,” she said.

A new study by AAA Texas shows the percentage of crashes involving drowsiness is nearly eight times higher than federal estimates indicate. In Texas, the total number of crashes related to drowsy driving in 2016 was nearly 10,000. More than 100 of those crashes were fatal. Several factors can contribute to a person nodding off at the wheel, including medication and medical situations.

“We see drowsy driving accidents regularly at our practice,” Trent Kelly, attorney with Terry & Kelly, PLLC in Austin, said.

Kelly said drowsiness is often something they learn of in their investigations into the crashes. Both Kelly and Montemayor said it’s critical Texans change their habits when it comes to getting behind the wheel.

“We’ve all been there – a couple of hours if we’re out partying or if we just stayed up late and didn’t sleep a lot,” Montemayor said. “I’ll admit I’m guilty of that too.”

She now urges drivers to monitor their exhaustion limit and know when they’re too tired to drive.

“Listen to your body,” she said. “If you’re that tired, take a nap for a second. Stay at work 30 minutes to an hour.”

AAA and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety formed Roadwise Rx, which is an online tool that allows you to enter your prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements so you can learn about how it will affect your safety behind the wheel.

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