Father of fatal crash victim speaks out against drowsy driving

Jordan Hirsch died in a car crash; likely haven fallen asleep behind the wheel.

The father of a fatal crash victim is taking action to educate the public about the dangers of drowsy driving.

Kersten Hirsch's son, Jordan, died in May, 2010, Jordan was driving on Route 20 near Fox Road in the Town of Onondaga when he went off the road and down an embankment, hitting several trees. Hirsch was taken by helicopter to Upstate University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Jordan was 19 years old at the time and driving home from Binghamton University, where he was studying to become a doctor.

"Jordan was a very loving and giving person," says Jasmine Hirsch, Jordan's stepmother. "He had a great sense of humor. He was really fun to be around, and he always had a way of bringing out a smile in everybody he was around."

Although the police report does not list officially what caused the crash, Kersten says he believes his son fell asleep at the wheel. Kersten says Jordan had been busy at school studying for finals and packing up his belongings to bring home.

"There was no swerving. There was no correcting. It was just straight into the trees," says Kersten. "My feeling on that is he most likely fell asleep and just never even knew what hit him."

Now, Kersten is speaking out to prevent what happened to his son from happening to anybody else.

"Everybody who has lost a child, or not just a child, anybody that they love, they ask themselves, 'What could I have done?'" says Kersten. "I could have taught him a little bit better about the dangers of fatigued driving. I wish I would've done that. I never did."

Deraux Branch, the president of Branch's Driving School, says drowsy driving is a big problem, but it's not often talked about. He says it can be as dangerous as distracted driving.

"When you're literally falling asleep at the wheel, there's just no conscious ability to decipher whether you're running off the road, whether you're swerving into lanes, out of lanes," says Branch.

Branch says drowsy driving accidents are most prevalent among males between the ages of 18-29. He says New Jersey has passed a law against drowsy driving. "Maggie's Law" makes it illegal to knowingly drive a vehicle while impaired by lack of sleep. See more advice from Branch here.

Branch says if you're feeling tired while you're driving, you can roll down the window to get some fresh air, turn off the heat, and pull over to take a power nap. He says for long trips, it's a good idea to pull over about every two hours. Branch says it's important for people to be honest with themselves before they even hit the road.

"It's just like a little kid who fights sleep going to bed," says Branch. "You know the kid's tired, the kid knows he's tired, but he wants to fight it. It's no different with us. We know when our bodies are tired. We know when we've had too much. You just have to be very cognizant that when you get behind the wheel of a car, you're putting not only your life at risk but other lives at risk."

According to the website, 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

Jordan's family started the Jordan Peter Hirsch Memorial Scholarship at Binghamton University to help spread the word about fatigued driving. Applicants are required to write an essay about the dangers of fatigued driving. If you would like to donate to the scholarship fund, you can write a check to the Binghamton University Foundation (Memo section Jordan Hirsch Memorial Scholarship) PO Box 6005 Binghamton, New York 13902, or online at

Do you worry about the dangers of drowsy driving? Have you ever been tempted to get behind the wheel when you haven't had enough rest? Post your comments below:

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