Sleepy driver wrecks on Thanksgiving

U.S. Highway 191, between Safford and Clifton. - Gila Valley Central Photo

By Brooke Curley

GRAHAM COUNTY – One sleepy morning could have been deadly, had the driver kept going.

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Tessa Prall, 18, of Morenci, was southbound on U.S. Highway 191 North near mile marker 139 headed toward Safford when she barely avoided a tragedy.

Just before the long stretch of road straight road, dubbed “The Straight”, Prall became sleepy. At 9:45 a.m., Prall was driving her 2006 Chevy Cobalt when she dozed off and hit the rumble strips just before she exited the Black Hills area of Hwy. 191. Had Prall kept going straight, she would have driven directly into a ravine that was roughly 200 feet deep. However, Prall swerved away from the ravine, turning her vehicle abruptly and skidding across the road and into the side of a hill.

Prall was transported to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center, where she was treated and released with minor injuries. Prall’s accident is the latest of several that have occurred on the long stretch of road between Safford and Three Way. Multiple wrecks on this long stretch of highway have claimed multiple lives, with sleepiness usually being the main cause.

Symptoms of sleepy driving include:

Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
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

Methods to Combat Sleepy Driving:

The pre-drive nap: taking a short nap before a road trip can help make up for a short night’s sleep.
The mid-drive nap: if you find yourself drowsy while driving, pull over to take a short nap of 20 minutes. Make sure you are in a safe location and remember you’ll be groggy for 15 minutes or so after waking up.
The Buddy system: It’s safest to drive with a partner on long trips. Pull over every two hours and switch drivers, while the other takes a nap if possible.
Don’t rush. Better to arrive at your destination safe than on time.
Do not drink alcohol. Even very small amounts of alcohol will enhance drowsiness.
Don’t drive between midnight and 6 a.m. Because of your body’s biological rhythm, this is a time when sleepiness is most intense.
Drink caffeine: Caffeine improves alertness, although be aware that the effects of caffeine will wear off after several hours.

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