Spring has finally sprung, and what do people want to do as the sun begins to shine and the temperatures begin to warm? They want to plan a getaway, of course.
For many area schools, spring break begins late this week and teenagers and young adults will be taking to the roadways for their escape. This is where the safety concerns of traveling come in.
While the weather is presumably not cold or slick, that doesn’t mean the risk of accidents or fatalities necessarily goes down.
Sheldon Lyon is the executive director of the St. Joseph Safety Council and was a trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol for decades. He said one of the most dangerous things about taking a road trip, especially as a teenager, is thinking you can do more than you can.
“What we typically see repeatedly are young people with good intentions that leave and they plan, instead of spending the night at a motel, to try and drive straight through,” Lyon said.
Lyon said teenagers and young adults are often on a tight budget when they travel, which often leads to them “taking shifts” behind the wheel and could cause a disaster.
“The first driver drives early in the morning and drives to the middle of the day, the second driver takes over and drives until 10, 11, 12 o’clock at night,” Lyon said. “The third-shift driver is typically the one that drives when they’re normally asleep and it is the one that will crash and has the potential to kill everyone in the car.”
In Lyon’s time as a trooper, he said seeing tragic accidents around this time of year is far from uncommon.
“One of them was a five-fatality accident just north up in Andrew County,” Lyon said. “They were adults traveling in a van, but they were trying to get to Disney World in Florida. They were driving, taking turns, and the third-shift driver is the one that killed five out of the six in the van.”
Lyon emphasized that if the body is deprived of sleep, the driver will perform like a drunk driver on the roadways. The consequences of falling asleep on the highway are obvious and could be deadly, but overall Lyon emphasized one thing.
“Don’t plan in order to save money to try to drive all night,” he said.