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SALT LAKE CITY -- Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence.
That's the message from the Utah Highway Patrol and a task force trying to lower the number of fatigue-related crashes.
"Being a drowsy driver, being a tired driver, is a dangerous driver," says Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Lee Perry. "You're just as dangerous as any drunk driver we're ever going to see out there, and we've got to stop people from driving that way."
Glen Thurston's family learned about that the hard way when a drowsy driver crashed into a car his daughter was riding in 15 months ago. The friends she was with survived, but she did not.
"Every day is tough," Thurston says. "It's hard to get up. We sure do miss her."
The Utah Highway Patrol hopes testimonials like Thurston's will change public perception.
- 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
Many people, who wouldn't think of drinking and driving, will drive when they're tired. Often times, the results are the same: drivers drift off the road, overcorrect, and then roll.
"The public has got to get the message: Drowsy driving kills people," Perry says.
The UHP says over the past three years, Utah has averaged more than 1,200 crashes and 32 deaths a year caused by drowsy drivers.
To help, the UHP and the Utah Department of Transportation plans to expand the "Sleep Smart, Drive Smart" campaign to Northern Utah. It will include traffic signs reminding drivers to pull over and take a nap. Drivers will start to see the signs between north Weber and Box Elder counties.
"We're going to do everything in our power to try and stop these people from driving, and we're just asking the public's cooperation," Perry says. "We'd rather not write them a citation, we'd rather them pull over and [have them] just take a nap."