Eight hospitalized after driver falls asleep at the wheel

A total of eight people who were riding in a single minivan were injured on Saturday night after the driver fell asleep. The minivan veered off the road and struck a tree before coming to a stop. The accident occurred near Montesano in Grays Harbor County,

Two adults and six children were riding in the van at the time of the crash; most were taken to local hospitals, but two girls who were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with severe injuries. The two adults who were in the minivan at the time of the crash were wearing seat belts, but the six children in the back of the van had no safety restraints.

The two children who were most severely injured were a 9-year-old girl and a 6-year-old girl. The youngest of the injured passengers is an 11-month-old girl.

Police are planning to charge the 28-year-old driver of the van with second-degree negligent driving. News reports have not stated whether they are considering drugs or alcohol as possibly factors in the collision. They have also not stated whether Norma Tapia-Valdivias, the driver who fell asleep, is related to any of the injured children.

Drowsy driving remains a problem in Washington state

Record-breaking amounts of rain and early sunsets have made November a particularly dangerous month for Washington’s drivers. With gloomy days outnumbering sunny ones, many people with pre-existing sleep conditions may find that their problems staying awake and focused get worse in the winter.

If you routinely find yourself getting drowsy behind the wheel:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Stop looking at electronic devices with backlit screens at least one hour before bed. Make sure that your bedroom is dark and that no lights are visible.
  • Talk to your doctor. Many conditions that cause poor sleep or interrupted sleep are difficult to self-diagnose. Many people with conditions like sleep apnea may not even realize that they have a problem that can be treated.
  • Consider your work schedule. Shift workers whose shifts are constantly changing are particularly prone to difficulties with getting enough high-quality sleep. Employees who routinely work large amount of overtime may also have difficulty “switching off” after a long day. Workers who are constantly on-call may find their sleep interrupted by urgent tasks throughout the night. If your job is requiring you to forego sleep, talk to your employer and see if another option is available.
  • Take public transit. If you’re routinely too drowsy to drive during the commuting hours, give public transit a try. If you don’t have a bus or train stop near you, try setting up a van pool or a private carpool with neighbors.
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