Asleep at the Wheel

The lighter side of sleep driving:  Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis in "Due Date".

The lighter side of sleep driving: Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis in “Due Date”.

More men than women fall asleep behind the wheel, according to a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control.  But there’s no doubt it happens to women, too. is asking readers to chime in on their drowsy driving stories so we figured we’d share ours with you.  Do you have your own story about falling asleep behind the wheel?  Have you come up with new techniques to stay awake and alert on the road?

It was a Friday night deep into my first term at the University of Oregon.  After attending an underwhelming frat party my friends and I were bored, restless, in need of adventure.  So, the four of us piled into my tiny Honda Accord hatchback and hauled up the freeway to Portland for an evening of mild debauchery.  It was a colorful night; one of the highlights of my college years.  But in my memory the happenings in the Rose City pale in comparison with what happened on the drive back to Eugene.

It was late – or early, depending on how you look at it – and I was exhausted.  So, relinquishing control of the vehicle to my friend Dana (her name has been changed to as to preserve the friendship), I crawled in the back seat to sleep.  I have no idea how much time passed before I woke, or even what awakened me but, when I came to, we were barreling down I-5 at 80 mph in the dead of night and I, a passenger in the back seat was the only person in the vehicle awake.

I don’t know how long Dana had been asleep but her nap ended abruptly when I reached around her seat and grabbed both her shoulders, screeching at her to, “Wake UP!”   When she realized what was happening she grabbed the wheel and overcorrected.  We swerved crazily, once into the other lane and once toward the divider.  I wondered if the car would bounce off the concrete.  Time slowed down, our friends woke in a panic, and it crossed my mind that “This is why we don’t let other people drive our car”.  I held my breath.

As quickly as the chaos started, though, it ended.  Dana regained control of the car, flipped on the blinker, and pulled over to the side of the road.  We all got out, legs shaky, eyes wide. Our heartbeats returned to normal.  I allowed myself to breathe.  And Dana, face pale and voice weak, handed me the keys.  “Here,” she said.  “You drive.”


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