Life, Death and N.Y.C. Taxis

New York Yellow Taxi heading uptown.
New York Yellow Taxi heading uptown.

Being a frequent traveler often means putting your life into the hands of complete strangers. Whether airline pilots, boat captains or taxi drivers, I'm regularly being transported between points A and B by people I've never met and will likely never see again. Usually that's not a problem, but every now and then, #DrowsyDriving catches up and it becomes life threatening. Here's what happened to me:

Recently, I was in a N.Y.C. taxi cab en route from LGA to downtown Manhattan. I was (or so I thought) safely ensconced in the backseat with my two colleagues Peter and Sheryl, chatting about our trip and upcoming meetings. Now, if you've ever been in a N.Y.C. taxi's backseat with two other adults, you know it's not the world's most comfortable spot, especially when the weather gets warm and the air gets less... fresh smelling. So there I was, a piece of bread in our human sandwich -- squeezed in between Sheryl (stuck in the middle because she has the shortest legs) and the rear passenger side door on the right.

If you take a lot of cabs, I don't have to tell you that the spot has its ups and downs: You're right in front of the credit card machine so you're the default payer, but you're also closer to the window and a source of cool, clean air. That particular day wasn't that hot out but I still had the window cracked open. As friends and coworkers, we were laughing and joking our way along the Grand Central Parkway at a good rate.

However, a quick glance at our driver quickly killed the mood. He was nodding off behind the wheel even as we hurtled through light traffic at 50 mph. Panic momentarily silenced me as I realized the life- (or, at least, injury-) threatening nature of our ride. Reason thankfully regained control of my senses, and I yelled out "Hey!" loudly enough to startle him awake (and scare the bejeezus out of Sheryl and Peter). Our drowsy driver's head lurched up and his glazed eyes shot open as he regained control of the car. "Pull over immediately if you're too tired to drive!" I yelled at him. "I wasn't sleeping," he replied, his voice full of sleep.

I made him open his window and crank up the radio and we all watched him closely for the rest of the trip. Needless to say, we overrode the default 20% tip (thanks N.Y.C. taxi commission!) and made it considerably lower. We were unbelievably lucky that we caught him before we piled into another car or the guardrail. #DrowsyDriving is a very real issue, especially for people who spend much of their lives behind the wheel.

Autonomous cars promise a much safer resolution -- one in which we could all be napping comfortably en route to our destinations -- which we may even see as soon as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In addition to the well-known efforts of Tesla and Google, and the rumored project from Apple, a Japanese company called Robot Taxi has pledged to deliver an autonomous fleet by the next summer games.

Until then and with any luck, thanks to Arianna Huffington's excellent Sleep Revolution warning and dedicated education programs, the fight against drowsy driving will reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by this senseless act. In the meantime, we should all heed Arianna's advice and get some much-needed sleep! So please join Klick and help support Klick MUSE speaker Arianna Huffington's campaign to put an end to #DrowsyDriving. Share your #DrowsyDriving or #SleepRevolution story on Twitter or Facebook today!