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Live to Run Again - Tips for Staying Safe on the Road

With the summer season, lots of competitors will be on the road traveling to regionals and to TitleMania. It's important to practice safe driving! Jamie McKay discusses the Live to Run Again program (and will bringing her library to the NE regional!)


by Jamie McKay, CPDT-KSA

Drowsy driving is a type of impaired driving that compromises an individual's ability to drive safely. Most of us think of impaired drivers as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but fatigue is known to affect alertness, attention, judgment, reaction time, and decision making as well. According the National Department of Highway Safety (NHTSA), drowsy drivers involved in a crash are twice as likely to make performance errors as compared to drivers who are not fatigued (www.nhtsa.gov).

Although drowsy driving can happen to anyone who is not well rested, statistics show that some groups are at higher risk for being involved in drowsy-driving related accidents: shift workers, those who work multiple jobs; young drivers, especially males; and truck drivers. For participants in canine performance events, travel habits can mimic those of a shift worker or truck driver leading to a greater potential for driving while tired.

In 2001, Jane Accampo Callaghy, the training director of Tail Blazers Agility Club (TBAC) in Pennsylvania, was on her way home from an agility trial when the driver of her vehicle fell asleep. The resulting accident took Jane's life. Live to Run Again (LTRA) was founded by TBAC in Jane's honor. This volunteer movement has grown into a nationwide campaign whose mission is dedicated to saving lives by educating agility and other dog competition enthusiasts on the importance of driving alert.

The warning signs of drowsiness while driving include yawning, trouble keeping your eyes open, involuntary nodding of your head, losing your train of thought and or not remembering the last few miles driven, drifting out of your lane or over the roadside rumble strip, and missing exits or traffic signs. If you start to feel drowsy while driving, find a safe place where you can stop driving, such as a lighted rest stop, and get some sleep. Power naps can recharge your batteries but should be limited to 20 minutes or so to avoid entering a sleep cycle. Short term fixes such as opening a window, turning up the radio, and consuming caffeine might make you feel more alert, but the effects are temporary. Caffeine has been shown to increase alertness by blocking receptors in the brain that regulate sleep. However, if you regularly consume caffeine, the effects will not be as pronounced. Even with caffeine intake, if you are extremely sleep deprived you may experience "micro sleep," an involuntary loss of consciousness that may last a few seconds.

There is no substitute for adequate sleep before a road trip. Pre-travel chores such as route planning, filling up the tank, shopping, and packing can be done a few days ahead of time, leaving you more time to rest the night before a trip. If possible, arrange to car pool with a friend and share the driving. If traveling alone, ensure that you have a hands-free device to check in with fellow competitors on the road. Consider taking breaks every two hours or so to stretch your legs. Eat small portions to avoid feeling stuffed and sleepy. Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness.

Many drivers find that listening to audio books helps them to stay alert behind the wheel. The Audio Book and Library Exchange (ABLE) is one of the primary public awareness programs offered by LTRA. The library books are obtained through private and corporate donations, purchases from discount booksellers, and legal downloads ABLE librarians set up their libraries at dog shows. Attendees are welcome to borrow audio books, which can then be returned in a month or so to any LTRA library. There are no fees to borrowers. In addition to traveling libraries, some dog clubs and training facilities host on-site libraries LTRA library for people who come and go to training classes and events. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer librarian, please contact Trisha Gage at blue.merle.girl@hotmail.com.

LTRA is always in need of CD audio book donations and materials that will help the librarians continue their mission of providing a convenient and safe way for canine sport enthusiasts to stay alert behind the wheel, fight the good fight against drowsy driving, and ARRIVE ALIVE! LTRA also encourage exhibitors to visit their public libraries and use audible.com to download books that interest them. Donated audio books (CDs only, please) do not have to be new, and the subject matter does not have to be dog related. LTRA is a not for profit 501(c)(3) public charity, and all donations are tax deductible.

Drive safely. You and your canine teammates are irreplaceable. For more information about LTRA or to donate, please visit www.livetorunagain.org.

Jamie McKay, CPDT-KSA and her husband Stephen McKay, CPDT-KSA own McKay9 Dog Training LLC in Harrison, N.Y. Jamie gained her early experience at the Humane Society of Westchester at New Rochelle providing training to enhance the adoptability of shelter dogs while teaching safe handling skills to volunteers. She has competed in agility and rally obedience. Jamie and Stephen are loved and owned by Shetland Sheepdog Derby and Border Collie Scorch, both of who compete in USDAA agility with Stephen and have recently welcomed Shetland Sheepdog puppy Tease into the family. Jamie can be reached at jamiemckay@optonline.net.

Photo credits: Jamie McKay.

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