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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Don't Be Dumb Like Me

I'm going to be honest with you--I wasn't sure I wanted to publish this post.  Nobody really likes to talk about when they did something dumb.  I'm not talking picking a bad paint color or leaving the salt out of a recipe.  I'm talking really dumb.   Like put people in danger dumb.

I'm going to tell you about an experience I had back when I was 20 and a college student.  I was at BYU, and every year they had people do "Don't Drive Drowsy" presentations during the week before the Thanksgiving break.  I admit to not paying too much attention.  

1--I didn't even own a car.  I never drove home from     
                   Provo to Idaho Falls.  
2--I kind of assumed they just needed something to talk 
                   about, since they weren't really worried about  
                   students driving intoxicated.

Well, it so happened that that year my brother, a high school senior, and his friend were making a visit to BYU, so they drove down in our family Suburban (oh, yeah) with the three of us planning to drive home together at the start of the break.  It got even better when I decided to just attend one of my Tuesday morning classes and skip the other ones, so we could leave even earlier.

Monday night we stayed up super late at my aunt's house, probably around 2am.  Then after my class the next day we left town.

You can probably guess where I'm going with this--yep, I fell asleep while driving home.  Just outside of Pocatello, even though we'd stopped at least once, and my brother had even offered to drive some, but I said no, thinking I'd probably had more sleep than he had the night before anyway.

My brother was in the passenger seat and we had some music going.  Suddenly he noticed the car drifting, so he looked over at me and my eyes were closed.  Seriously.  I can't imagine what he thought in that moment.  But he reached over to grab the wheel and that startled me awake, causing me to jerk the wheel and swerve sharply (I had the Suburban on cruise control to make it worse) and we went right off the side of the road into a ditch, turning the car upside down in the process.  (I thought I had a picture stashed away that I'd taken of the car, but I couldn't find it...so you get this one of me instead, taken just a few days before on my 20th birthday)

We ended up crawling along the roof of the car and getting out the rear door.  This was way before the days of everyone owning a cell phone, so we were lucky that someone had been driving behind us and was able to call it in.  Also on the list of "luckys" (though I call them miracles)

--We were ok...that picture above could have been the last picture taken of me
--We had not been trapped in the car
--I learned later that my brother's friend hadn't even been wearing his seat belt!  From that day on I have made sure that anyone driving with me has a seat belt on--they don't get to choose
--We went off the road at the place we did.  I've made that drive many times since then...sometimes driving, sometimes the passenger, and always cringed a little at the overpasses, bridges and dropoffs where we could have crashed instead
--There weren't any other cars on the road next to us.  I could have so easily brought other victims into this mess

I made it on the news that night.  There was a small blurb about traveling students who had crashed.  I think I may have even been in the footage a little.  Not my proudest moment, and certainly not what I wanted to ever be on the news for.

When I made it back to school after the vacation, I wrote a letter to the school newspaper which they published (again, not what I wanted to be in the paper for) but I felt like I should tell people what could happen.  Other than that though, I haven't talked about it much.  It's embarrassing, and not in a tell-it-anyway-cause-its-funny type of way.

If you read through all this, thank you.  If you know anyone traveling this holiday season, especially college students, please forward this to them, or talk to them about it.  And if you yourself are driving somewhere and start to feel tired at all, please pull off somewhere and rest for a while, or let someone else drive.  So, so, so much better to arrive a little late than not at all.  Also--most accidents like this happen close to home because you're familiar with the surroundings, and you think you're so close that you can just push through and make it there.

For more information about driving while sleepy visit 
DrowsyDriving.org  and TeenDriverSource.org  Be safe on the road!


  1. WOW!! What a story! I actually got goose bumps! Thank you for the reminder...I have fallen asleep behind the wheel before. Thankfully, I woke up before....thank you for sharing your story~

  2. Thank you for being courageous enough to allow the rest of us to learn this very valuable lesson. I am so glad angels were cradling that vehicle to land safely! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  3. Thank you so much for sharing. I am hitting the road Thursday morning as the driver and this is definitely a touching and poignant reminder.

  4. Such a great reminder! Thanks for sharing this embarrassing, yet REAL and almost tragic story! My daughter had two accidents in one night on her way back to school from the Thanksgiving holiday at home...both times she was talking on her cell phone. I wanted to kill her myself for being so careless (in a snow storm), but I WAS SO GRATEFUL she was fine both times, just shaken up a bit. She was LUCKY! I'm glad you were too!!!

  5. Thanks for sharing that great reminder. I shudder when I think of the times I drove over the point of the mountain late at night, with the window down--trying to keep myself awake on my drive from Provo to SLC. My hubby (then fiance) lived in Provo, and I lived in SLC. We seem to think we're bullet proof, but we're not!

    By the way, you still look like you're in your twenties! Lucky lady!

  6. Thank you for sharing. We are heading to Utah on Friday and decided to do the trip in 2 days so that we wouldn't have to try to force ourselves to stay awake until the early morning hours. We have all done dumb things while driving. Let's just hope we are all so lucky and no one gets seriously injured.

  7. Such an important reminder, and timely posted too! My darling son has never been much of a sleeper since birth. He is now 2 1/2 years old and only in the past 4 months has he not been getting up at least 3 times a night, often 6 to 10 times. You can imagine that I've been majorly sleep deprived the past 2 1/2 years and so we've just decided that during this stage in life I'm not driving. It means a loss of convenience and freedom, but it is worth it to protect our lives and health, not to mention that of all the other people on the road.

  8. Wow, Steph. That is a very helpful story. It really is an eye-opener. In some states, driving while drowsy is unlawful. I also did such things as a college student years ago. Thank goodness for you and I both that no one was injured or lost their life. Thank you for this excellent post.

  9. So scary!! So glad you were all ok! There have been times that I have gotten tired and I always think, I only have a little farther to go, I'll be ok. Thankfully I've never had anything happen but reading this makes me think twice for sure!