RALEIGH, N.C. — The state Highway Patrol is warning drivers of the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while tired.
“This is an everyday problem. It’s as bad as driving while impaired,” N.C. Trooper Beckley Vaughan said Thursday.
Vaughan said he has gotten reports of drivers being impaired when they were just tired. Drivers who fall asleep at the wheel are putting other drivers at risk, he said.
“With 'fatigue drivers,' those who do fall asleep, they have absolutely no control over the vehicle. They don’t know where they’re going to go. The vehicle pretty much takes over,” Vaughan said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates sleep related accidents result in 40,000 injuries annually.
Erick Jerome, of Clayton, was minutes away from his home when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a ditch on Ten Ten Road in Wake County on Thursday.
Jerome was on his way home from a shift at Wal-Mart – one of his two jobs. He is also employed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Jerome said that when he got behind the wheel of his car, he didn't realize he was so tired. He called his wife, Barbara, and said he had just hung up with her before the accident.
“I just lost control. The next thing I knew, I was in a ditch,” Jerome said.
Barbara Jerome said she was just grateful her husband is able to walk away from the crash.
“I could have lost my husband today – the first day of 2009,” she said.
Earlier Thursday, Patrick Jacob, 17, a junior at Princeton High School, wrecked on Bakers Chapel Road due to fatigue.
Trooper D. Braswell said Jacobs was driving home from an overnight New Year's event at church when he lost control and landed upside down in a ditch.
Jacobs was listed in good condition Thursday evening.
Troopers advise drivers to avoid driving when they are tired.
“There are many fatal accidents that are the result of fatigue drivers,” Vaughan said.
If fatigue sets in while driving, troopers suggest pulling over and making other arrangements to get to your destination.