Health Department cautions: Avoid drowsy driving

ST. GEORGE – High school graduation is right around the corner, and while many teenagers are anticipating the end of school with excitement, one family is reminded of a tragic accident which struck this time last year.

During the morning hours of May 23, 2012, Donald Padilla was on his way to work in Washington City. Traveling the other direction were two high school seniors on their way home from celebrating the end of school at an all-night activity. The teen driver fell asleep at the wheel, crossed over four lanes of traffic and hit Donald head-on. After being flown to the University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Donald passed away that evening from the injuries sustained in the accident. His wife Becky shared this story to warn people of the dangers of drowsy driving.

Each year around 1,000 crashes are caused by drowsy driving in Utah, resulting in an average of 23 deaths. According to the Utah Highway Safety Office, being awake for 24 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .10, which is considered legally drunk. The highest number of drowsy driving crashes occur during the hours of 5-9 a.m.

Many late-night celebrations and events are held this time of year, and it is Becky Padilla’s desire to warn teens and adults to be aware of the signs of drowsy driving and to get off the road before an accident happens.

Signs of Drowsy Driving 

•  Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking or heavy eyelids

•  Daydreaming or wandering thoughts

•  Trouble remembering the last few miles driven

•  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

What you can do if you are experiencing these signs

•  Pull over and take a nap

•   Pull over and call someone to pick you up

•   Stop and get out and move around

•  Stop and switch drivers if others are in the car

“While losing my husband was heartbreaking,” Becky Padilla said, “I am fortunate to say that in my life with Donald, I had no regrets, other than he was taken from us too soon. Now I’m asking for help in spreading the word against drowsy driving. I hope teens, parents, and schools will take action to avoid what my family experienced.”

Drivers Education Parent Program

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department is offering the new Drivers Ed Parent Program to all area high schools (Washington, Iron, Beaver, Kane, & Garfield counties).

This powerful presentation helps teens and their parents understand the realities and responsibilities that come with driving. Dangerous behaviors such as impaired, aggressive, distracted, and drowsy driving are discussed as well as the importance of buckling up.

To find out more about getting the Drivers Ed Parent Program into your local high school for summer or fall drivers ed classes, contact Cambree Johnson at cjohnson@swuhealth.org or 435-865-5151.

Submitted by:  Southwest Utah Public Health Department:  “The mission of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department is to protect the community’s health through the promotion of wellness and the prevention of disease.”

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Twitter: @STGnews

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