Marian Berkowitz began the Drowsy Driving Prevention Project in 2012 in memory of her brother, Jim, in order to raise awareness about the dangers of drowsy driving and to lobby for safe driving laws.
My brother, Jim, was just 24 years old when he died in a fall asleep car crash while driving back to his law school in North Carolina. Jim had traveled up to Washington, D.C. from Winston-Salem, NC during the last week of October for summer job interviews. While in D.C., Jim learned that he made it to the quarter final round of the Wake Forest University School of Law moot court competition. Feeling pressure to return quickly to school, Jim set out on the roughly 6-hour trip back to school on the Monday evening after the week-end of the fall clock change. Studies of fall asleep crashes have found that traveling just after the fall clock change is a significant risk factor. Jim never made it back to school. He died instantly after his car swerved to the other side of the road and collided with an oncoming bus.
Jim accomplished much in his short life. He studied history at University of Richmond and Oxford, worked during summers and after graduation at law firms in preparation for a career in law. He loved school, sports, acting, and music, and was loved by many relatives and friends. He was a careful driver and all the evidence of his car accident pointed to his falling asleep as the cause. What happened to him could have happened to anyone.
Due to significantly improved data concerning sleep-related car crashes since the time of Jim’s car crash (1980’s), drowsy driving is now recognized as a serious public health and safety issue. We are always hearing about sleep deprivation among college students, medical workers, night shift workers, etc. The goal of this Project is to provide education and awareness messages to those most at risk of drowsy driving, in the hopes of saving lives.
Marian Berkowitz, Founder and Director
Marian Berkowitz lives in the Boston area and has a Master’s in Public Health with an environmental health specialty. She has worked for many years at the state and federal levels to address community environmental health concerns. In 2008, Marian provided testimony to the Massachusetts Commission on Drowsy Driving, mandated by the 2006 Junior Operator Legislation to collect information on drowsy driving. She is now using her experience in risk communication to address an injury prevention issue of personal concern. There are an increasing number of tired drivers on the road. At the same time, automotive technology has advanced to help address this problem. Marian would like to serve as a resource for those interested in working to raise awareness about drowsy driving whether in Massachusetts or elsewhere.