Driving Drowsy Blamed For A Number Of Tri-City Deadly Accidents - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Driving Drowsy Blamed For A Number Of Tri-City Deadly Accidents

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KENNEWICK, Wash. - According to Washington State Patrol some drivers are hitting the road without enough sleep.

It is a problem that has proven to be deadly in recent months in the Tri-Cities.  

Last Friday a 56-year-old Paterson teacher died behind the wheel and in June five family members passed away on Highway 124.

Washington State Troopers responded to both calls and said that it appeared that the drivers in both separate accidents fell asleep.

Sergeant Zach Elmore got a called about a possible drunk driver on Highway 395 Wednesday afternoon.  He did a number of tests and determined that the female driver was not drunk, but he said time and time again he gets calls just like this.  

Elmore said, "They are driving like they're impaired and you think they have been drinking or doing drugs and you see they're sober but they're just really, really tired."

The driver told Sergeant Elmore that she was swerving to avoid an accident with other cars and that drowsiness might have been a factor.  

Driver Gabriela Nunez said, "I don't think people realize they dangers of driving when you are tired.  It's just as bad as driving when you are intoxicated because you are not focused, not thinking, you can't react as quickly."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that accidents that happen when people are drowsy usually occur late at night or early in the morning and when the driver is alone in the car.

The NHTSA also states that young people between the ages of 16-29, especially males, are at the most risk, along with shift-workers that work long, irregular hours.

Sergeant Elmore said, "You know if you've got to get up early get a good night sleep.  If you work night shift maybe you shouldn't drive.  You know your body better than anyone else."

The NHTSA also found that 37 percent of drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at least once in their life.

Experts suggest getting off the road if you feel tired and taking a short nap in a well lit area.