It happens way too often. Everyone’s on the way home from the dog show, the agility trial, the hunting event, whatever sport they love to do with their dogs. Then the news breaks – there’s been an accident.
Perhaps bad weather made for hazardous driving conditions, or a deer ran into the road. A driver may have been distracted by a cell phone call or was trying to retrieve a dropped item from the floor. On the other hand, maybe he or she fell asleep at the wheel.
While there is no indication that this is what happened to agility trainer Elicia Calhoun on Monday when she crashed near Tucson, Ariz., it’s a common problem for anyone who drives long distances, including professional truck drivers.
Drivers who fall asleep at the wheel actually fall into microsleep, a brief loss of consciousness – lasting only seconds. Driving while too sleepy to do so safely is known as “drowsy driving.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s website, www.drowsydriving.org, these signs indicate any driver should stop to rest: “difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids; daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts; trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs; yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes; trouble keeping your head up; drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip; feeling restless and irritable.”
The National Sleep Foundation isn’t the only organization in the United States addressing the issue.
After a post-trial accident killed Janie Callaghy, the training director of the Tail Blazers Agility Club of the Brandywine Valley PA, in 2001, some club members started the Live to Run Again Campaign to educate competitors about the dangers of driving while sleepy. Live to Run Again later incorporated as its own nonprofit organization.
Live to Run Again’s website, www.livetorunagain.org, says its goal is to “raise awareness of the dangers of driving drowsy to enthusiasts of canine competitive events. Through educational materials and activities, we help participants of the sport take active steps to drive alert and rested.”
The site offers all kinds of information about the dangers of drowsy driving, tips for making trips safely and the benefits of power naps and caffeine naps.
Tom Callaghy was at the wheel at the time of the accident that spawned LTRA. You can watch him tell his story on YouTube.
In addition to educating competitors, Live to Run Again sponsors the Audio Book Libraries and Exchange, or ABLE, program. Volunteer librarians across the U.S. and Canada who participate in canine sports offer books on tapes and CDs to an event’s competitors, who can then return them at a subsequent trial. The exchange is not designed to alleviate drowsy driving, according to the LTRA website, which states, “Listening to audio books does not work as an anti-drowsy strategy for everyone. Falling asleep is involuntary, so when you become drowsy you can’t predict or control the ‘tipping’ point from being awake to falling asleep. While driving, if you experience any of the warning signs of fatigue you must take immediate action. The best solution is to STOP and REST so you can Live to Run Again!”
That’s good advice for all of us.