Plowing through two fences and driving into the deep end of the backyard swimming pool at a Santa Clara home proved a wet awakening for a 19-year-old Santa Clara man who fell asleep at the wheel of his car around 2:45 a.m. April 11. The driver was able to get out of the car on his own before it sank and before police arrived at the two-story house at the intersection of Warburton Ave. and Calabazas Blvd.
Nobody was at home when the sleepy teen dozed off and lost control of his four-door sedan. However, a neighbor heard a loud bang and crash and someone calling for help and called the police at 2:48 a.m., according to Santa Clara Police Lt. Dan Moreno, public information officer.
“It was just a kid who fell asleep,” said Lt. Moreno later that afternoon. “He wasn’t under the influence and wasn’t injured. Officers gave him a ride home.”
Later in the morning, it took two tow trucks a little over an hour to pull the car out of the pool, and by 12:30 p.m. it had been towed away and the wood fence around the backyard was being repaired. A damaged section of the black wrought iron fence surrounding the front yard would also need repair.
Howard Nguyen has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and knows the homeowners. He watched the car being pulled out of the pool and chatted with other on-lookers, who said that the car driver had been there taking pictures. A brother of one of the homeowners, reportedly on a spring break vacation, said that the family had been notified and was returning.
“This isn’t the first accident that happened in this yard,” Nguyen recalled. “Once somebody ran a stop sign and plowed into the yard.”
Lt. Moreno advised that if you ever end up in a car in the water, do counter to what your first inclination might be.
“It’s never a good idea to roll up the window,” said Moreno. “Roll the window down, unbuckle your seat belt and get out.”
Lt. Moreno had advice about drowsy driving as well: Don’t do it.
“It’s never a good idea to drive when you’re drowsy. Call a friend or wait until you’re alert enough to drive safely,” he said, explaining that “drowsy driving looks like drunk driving because you’re swerving–falling asleep and waking up.”
Drowsing driving, as dangerous as drunk driving, is considered a major problem in the U.S. according to Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates conservatively that 100,000 police-reported crashes annually are the direct result of driver fatigue. These crashes cause an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
Signs of drowsy driving: yawning or blinking frequently, catching yourself “nodding off” and having trouble keeping your head up, difficulty remembering the last few miles driven, missing your exit or turn, finding yourself too close to cars in front of you, drifting from your lane and hitting the shoulder of the road.
Getting enough sleep every day is the only way to prevent drowsy driving. The recommendation is 8 to 10 hours a night for 14 to 17-year-olds, 7 to 9 hours for those 18 to 64 and 7 to 8 hours for those 65 and over.
Specific at risk groups for drowsy driving are young males under 26, shift workers, commercial drivers and people with untreated sleep disorders or with short-term or chronic sleep deprivation. For more information on drowsy driving, visit www.drowsydriving.org.