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Drowsy drivers put everyone at risk

November 12, 2012 12:10 am

OK, FOLKS, don't be alarmed, but the National Sleep Foundation wants you to know that it's a good idea to stay awake when you're driving.

That's the gist of Drowsy Driver Prevention Week, something the National Sleep Foundation does every year as a way to remind folks that sleepy drivers are dangerous drivers.

It's really not as silly as it sounds, though.

Sleepy drivers aren't an epidemic. They don't always consciously make the bad choice those who drink or text and drive do.

But sleepy, or dozing, drivers do cause crashes.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's "conservative" estimate is that each year there are on average 100,000 known crashes caused by drowsy drivers, leading to more than 1,500 deaths and 71,000 injuries.

The NHTSA also estimates that drowsy driving crashes cause $12.5 billion in monetary losses a year.

And our area was reminded last week of the seriousness of drowsy driving when Sky Express bus driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for falling asleep and crashing a Chinatown bus on Interstate 95 in Caroline County in May 2011. Four women perished and dozens were seriously injured in that crash.

Drowsy driving happens to the best of us, and sometimes we don't even realize it.

But if you have to hang your head out the window, slap yourself silly or pound energy drinks and coffee to stay awake behind the wheel, it might be time for at least a cat nap.

Just remember to pull over somewhere safe first.

This week, we're changing things up a bit. Instead of a question from a reader, we'll go with some news and notes on transportation--things you might have missed and other assorted items. VRE gets most of the space this week.

The commuter rail service last week endured its second deadly pedestrian incident in less than a month, the only two in its 20-year history, according to VRE.

In each case a person walked onto the tracks in front of a moving train.

Add those to the Spotsylvania man who was hit and killed by an Amtrak train in October and that makes it three in the area in less than a month.

Through August this year, there had been 10 people killed statewide in rail incidents.

On a better note, for those interested in VRE's Santa Train, it'll run Dec. 8. No word on ticket sales yet, but commuter rail service plans to make an announcement on that soon.

The Brooke Road VRE lot in Stafford was scheduled to be milled and paved over the weekend; the parking expansion work there should be finished by early December.

VRE commuters got a little dressing down recently for what seems like a case of rail rage. VRE's Chris Henry sent out a digital wrist slap to passengers he said threatened, cursed at and shoved conductors.

On another topic, the public information session on the widening of Fall Hill Avenue and extension of Mary Washington Boulevard that was canceled because of Superstorm Sandy has been rescheduled for Nov. 26 at James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg. The meeting will run from 5 to 8 p.m.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

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