Highway Patrol: Drowsy driving causes Greenville accident

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PITT COUNTY, NC (WITN) - The NC Highway Patrol says drowsy driving caused an accident in the east Friday morning.

It's the latest example of what a new study shows, that more car crashes are caused by sleepy drivers than you may think.

A new study by AAA says that 1-in-10 car crashes happen because the driver is tired.

Experts say that means drivers could be putting themselves or others in danger if they get less than seven hours of sleep.

Devin Willhite says she's part of the one-third of drivers who admit to getting sleepy while driving from time to time.

"There's been one time where I almost ran off the road, but yeah, it was pretty scary," she says. "It woke me up."

NC Highway Patrol says an accident on Highway 264 west in Pitt County Friday morning was caused by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel.

"When I'm tired and I'm driving, I'm definitely not driving like I usually would," Willhite says.

John Fogarty is a sleep disorder doctor at Physicians East in Greenville. His office works with patients struggling with sleeping or tiredness.

"Sleepy driving is a big safety issue we try to emphasize with our patients," he says.

Fogarty says sometimes the best thing to do when you're feeling drowsy behind the wheel is to pull over, turn off the car, and take a few minutes to rest.

"A lot of people after 15 minutes of rest will feel refreshed and ready to go on."

Willhite says that's not always the most appealing option. "Cause it just makes it like, it's inconvenient to have to pull over and have to do that."

Willhite usually drinks a caffeinated soda to cure her drowsiness and Fogarty says that works too.

He says the most important solution is, "Avoidance of driving while sleepy or ability to be attentive would be the main thing."

Fogarty says when people are driving, they're typically not good at determining whether they're tired or not.

He says it can be important to take a minute to think about whether you may be too sleepy to drive before you get behind the wheel.

AAA warns getting only four or five hours of sleep a night can more than quadruple your chances of a car crash.

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Highway 264 east is re-opening near Greenville after a two-car accident Friday morning.

Trooper N.S. Miles tells WITN that two cars were traveling westbound on 264 when the driver in the left travel lane fell asleep behind the wheel and hit a van traveling in the right lane around 7:40am. Both cars crashed and the van reportedly rolled 1-2 times over the median onto the eastbound side.

Emergency responders shut down the eastbound lanes near the intersection with NC-43.

The driver of the van was taken to the hospital with what are believed to be non life-threatening injuries.

The driver who reportedly fell asleep has been charged with reckless driving.

As of 8:45am, Trooper Miles said the scene was clearing up and traffic would be resuming its normal pattern.