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Driver falls asleep at the wheel, strikes three vehicles in Union City

By Jon Watje
Managing Editor

Union City emergency crews responded to a multiple car wreck caused by a driver falling asleep.

This Ford 500 was one of three vehicles struck by a truck in Union City on Thursday. Police say the driver of the truck fell asleep at the wheel.

This Ford 500 was one of three vehicles struck by a truck in Union City on Thursday. Police say the driver of the truck fell asleep at the wheel.

On the morning of Thursday, Dec. 8 at approximately 7:45 a.m., a 1996 Chevrolet 1500 pickup operated by Kade Lavey, 20, of Marlow was driving southbound from I-40 on US 81. Lavey stated that he had fallen asleep after working all night. Lavey drove into the rear of a 2011 GMC Terrain that was also southbound. This vehicle was operated by Kristie Phillips, 44, of Yukon. This woke Lavey who veered to the left, crossing into on-coming traffic where he struck two northbound vehicles. First a 2001 Ford F-150 operated by Joshua Grubb, 36, of Yukon, and then a 2006 Ford 500 operated by Kenneth Hembree, 25, of Minco. Mr. Lavey reported non-life threatening injuries and was transported by Mercy EMS to Mercy Health Center El Reno.

Union City Police Chief Richard Stephens said the incident could have ended much differently.

“All of the vehicles in this collision were disabled and the debris field was spread across nearly 750 feet of roadway,” Stephens said. “The northbound lanes were closed for nearly an hour with traffic diverted around the scene into one of the southbound lanes.”

This situation strongly illustrates the dangers of driving while sleepy or sleep deprived.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. These figures may be the tip of the iceberg, since currently it is difficult to attribute crashes to sleepiness.

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America poll, 60% of adult drivers – about 168 million people – say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, and more than one-third, (37% or 103 million people), have actually fallen asleep at the wheel! In fact, of those who have nodded off, 13% say they have done so at least once a month. Four percent – approximately eleven million drivers – admit they have had an accident or near accident because they dozed off or were too tired to drive.

Sleep related crashes are most common in young people, especially men, adults with children and shift workers. According to the NSF’s 2002 poll:
• Adults between 18-29 are much more likely to drive while drowsy compared to other age groups (71% vs. 30-64, 52% vs. 65+, 19%).
• Men are more likely than women to drive while drowsy (56% vs. 45%) and are almost twice as likely as women to fall asleep while driving (22% vs. 12%).
• Adults with children in the household are more likely to drive drowsy than those without children (59% vs. 45%).
• Shift workers are more likely than those who work a regular daytime schedule to drive to or from work drowsy at least a few days a month (36% vs. 25%).
• Sleep deprivation increases the risk of a sleep-related crash; the less people sleep, the greater the risk.
• According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in such a crash as those sleeping 8 hours or more, while people sleeping less than 5 hours increased their risk four to five times.
• A study by researchers in Australia showed that being awake for 18 hours produced an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours; .08 is considered legally drunk.
• Other research indicates commercial drivers and people with undiagnosed sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and acute insomnia are also at greater risk for fall asleep crashes.
“Please make sure that you are prepared and safe to operate a motor vehicle safely,” Stephens said. “Your life and many other families depend on your judgement every day.”

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