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Driving Tired is a Deadly Choice
Capt. Chris Slattery poses for a photo with his two brothers in a photo taken before the accident. (Courtesy photo)
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Driving tired is a deadly choice

Posted 11/5/2010   Updated 11/5/2010 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Chris Slattery
44th Fighter Squadron

11/5/2010 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is Nov. 8-14. As you will see in the following article by Capt. Chris Slattery, 44th Fighter Squadron, the decisions you make as an individual can have lasting impact on others. Ensure you are ready for the task at hand, whether it is working on the flightline or driving home at the end of the day. Sound decision-making is the foundation of good risk management, on- or off-duty. Make sure your decision-making considers the potential impact to yourself and others. - Lt. Col. James Leffel, 18th Wing Safety office

On Aug. 16, my step-mother, Susan, and two brothers, Peter and Matthew, were on their way home from Ohio to Baltimore when only an hour into their drive they were rear-ended by a truck driver who had fallen asleep.

The impact pushed their car into the semi in front of them killing Susan and critically injuring Peter and Matthew. Following the impact with my family, the truck went on to hit two other semis and four more passenger vehicles before stopping in the divider and bursting into flames.

Matthew is in a coma from massive head trauma and Peter is recovering from a broken pelvis and facial fracture.

Peter was considered the "lucky" one. I disagree. Being conscious enough to overhear the paramedics pronounce your mom dead as they put you in a helicopter is not "luck," it's hell.

At 11:44 a.m. on a beautifully clear day, my family's lives were changed forever. In an instant my father lost his wife and had two sons in emergency surgery, one of which may not make it out. That was just the beginning of what would become our "new" life.

The first weeks were spent juggling surgeries for both boys, meetings with doctors, lawyers and funeral directors, all while ensuring someone was always at Peter's and Matthew's side.

Time with Matthew was spent wondering if he was going to make it through the day. Every life support system imaginable was constantly alarming the ICU team to a new danger that would spring them into action every couple of hours.

Peter was alert, when not recovering from surgery, which was a challenge in itself. He felt every bit of the pain, physically and emotionally, and you could see it.

Hospitals and funeral's are what we associate with tragedy, but the long-term effects are seldom considered.

After a month in Ohio, the boys were finally stable enough to be transported back to Baltimore. Peter went home and Matthew to a long-term care facility. My father divides his time between taking care of Peter at home and helping with Matthew's therapy at the hospital. Taking care of his family makes working impossible. Life insurance and paid leave only get you so far when you're looking at years of rehab.

Peter will make a full recovery and has just gone back to full days at school. Matthew still cannot talk and only occasionally nods in response to yes or no questions. All of this happened because one man who thought, "I'm not that tired."

An article sent out by the 18th Wing Safety Office stated that micro sleep lasting just three to four seconds is enough to travel the length of a football field at 65 mph. Unfortunately, my family happened to be on that football field during those few seconds.

Each of us signed up to ensure the safety and defense of our nation and families. That duty does not end when we leave work. What does it say about us if we hurt the very people we swore to defend by making poor choices off duty? Please think twice before getting behind the wheel tired.

11/30/2011 9:06:59 AM ET
Mr Ed Slattery why don't the advocacy groups fight for more safe parking for truck drivers. So far no support for Jason's Law. httpwww.jhlrivenburg.com Also under the current Hours Of Service rule the fatality rate is at the lowest in recorded traffic accident statistics as stated by the U.S. DOT.httpwww-nrd.nhtsa.dot.govPubs811172.pdf
Will Tutton, Harford Co.MD
11/24/2010 10:23:30 PM ET
Awesome article Every single person needs to read this article and those that are illiterate need to have someone read it to them. Perhaps it could save lives or prevent all the unnecessary pain and suffering for other families that your family has endured and will for the rest of your lives. Prayers for your family daily. God Bless the Slattery family.
Hope Copas, Lohman Missouri
11/12/2010 9:19:47 AM ET
Well done Chris. I will post to my facebook page.
louise hahn, cockeysville maryland
11/11/2010 11:14:38 PM ET
You did a beautiful job delivering a very serious message. Most of us have driven at times when we should have been sleepingespeacially those of us that do shift work. I will post this story wherever I can throughout my hospitalit is something we need to be reminded of often.
Ticia Armstrong, maryland
11/11/2010 12:38:08 AM ET
A very well written article. It puts it like it is when driving while not having enough rest. A very few seconds can wreak havic on one person or a whole family. My prayers are with you all in the loss of Susan and will continue to be especially for healing for the boys. God does work miracles
Lois Mader, Spokane Washington
11/10/2010 12:05:32 PM ET
I pray for your family every day.
Michelle Fooks, Jefferson City MO
11/9/2010 2:17:19 PM ET
Yes a heartwrenching story that must be told Many prayers to you and your family. Have had the privilege of visting with your dad Peterand Mattew at KKI.
Cynthia, Alexandria VA
11/8/2010 4:04:20 PM ET
Chris my wonderful son so eloquently put. I love you andnknow thatnyour words will save lives.
Ed Slattery, Baltimore MD
11/5/2010 2:14:50 PM ET
Great story Chris. Hope that it gets the message across to lots of people to think before driving tired. Have been following and praying for Matthew and Peter through their CB site.
Debbie, SallisMS
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