We all know the dangers of driving while drinking, but there are other ways of being impaired behind the wheel. Fatigue is a very real thing. Ask classical bluegrass musician Jake Schepps.
In an piece in “Bluegrass Today,” Jake candidly opens up about a fatal accident he caused in Colorado three years ago that resulted from his own fatigue. “At about 2:30 a.m. I briefly nodded off to sleep, and drifted into oncoming traffic,” the banjo player writes in the personal essay. “I snapped awake a split second before hitting an oncoming car. I swerved as best I could and my vehicle hit almost head-on with another car, both of us traveling at about 60 mph.”
A passenger in that car died and the driver had serious injuries, as did Jake. He was hospitalized for a week and bedridden for a month. His license was revoked and he was sentenced to community service.
Jake admits that he thinks about the accident every day. “I caused an incalculable amount of pain and suffering to the family of the man who died, the driver and his family, not to mention my own family and my larger community of friends,” he writes.
But he also reminds us of the price musicians pay to bring their gift to fans, especially early in their careers.
“A musical path is one of passion, yet to pay the bills, to show up at the next gig in time for sound check, or hundreds of other reasons, we often make choices that compromise our sleep,” he writes. “The best musical moments often happen at 2 a.m., yet we may be up at 7 a.m. for a myriad of reasons (travel, work, kids, insomnia). Another factor that differs is the adrenaline rush from performing and jamming. Music is an undeniable high, and much of what motivates us to play music. It takes a while to unwind after these experiences, and when we do it is more of a nosedive than a slow descent. Timing-wise, this may happen driving home or to the next gig, when things are quiet, others in your van may be asleep or you are driving alone (as I was).”
Godspeed to all of our touring musicians as they hit the road for this weekend’s gigs.