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Teen Holding Breath Behind Wheel Causes Tunnel Crashes

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Dennis L. Edwards Tunnel

A Snohomish, Wash., teenager who was playing a game behind the wheel faces charges of reckless driving, reckless endangerment, and fourth-degree assault after causing accidents over the holiday weekend in Oregon, reports the Associated Press in an article appearing in The Seattle Times. Daniel J. Calhoon, 19, passed out from holding his breath Sunday while driving through the Dennis L. Edwards Tunnel, which is near the community of Manning, Ore., according to NPR‘s Alan Greenblatt.

After Calhoon fainted, his Toyota Camry crossed the tunnel’s center line and hit a Ford Explorer head-on, Greenblatt writes. Both vehicles then hit interior tunnel walls, and a pickup truck collided with the Camry.

The car accident injured four people, one of them seriously, Greenblatt writes. AP reports that none of the injuries was life-threatening. The injured parties include Calhoon, his passenger (a 19-year-old from Edmonds), a 67-year-old man, and a 62-year-old woman.

Oregon State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings told AP on Monday that he is not sure why Edmonds was holding his breath, but that some people do so in tunnels as part of a childish game. Greenblatt writes that Calhoun said he was holding his breath on purpose, “apparently participating in a superstitious game.”

Greenblatt writes:

‘Upon entering a tunnel, passengers hold their breath,’ the lifestyle magazine Complex explained last year. (Emphasis added.) ‘Parents love this game because if you pass out for a while after holding your breath too long, everybody wins. Unless you’re the driver, then everybody loses.’

An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) spokesman told Greenblatt that IIHS has no statistics indicating how often drivers faint after deciding to hold their breath while driving. Greenblatt notes that a man named Geof Huth posted a video to Vimeo in 2011 in which he attempts to hold his breath while driving the length of a tunnel in Maryland.

The tunnel that was the scene of the accidents on Sunday night is 772 feet long, Greenblatt writes. He adds that according to AP, a car traveling through the tunnel at the posted speed of 55 miles per hour would get through it in 10 seconds.

Greeblatt writes that in response to the accident, the Oregon State Police tweeted: “Don’t play games on our roads.” Greenblatt also quotes an Oregon physician, Sarah Winslow, as telling Portland, Oregon’s KATU she is sure that Calhoun did not know he would faint by holding his breath. “It’s sad that they had so much effect from playing a game,” Winslow said.

Among the various comments posted below the NPR article, Dorothea MacDonald writes:

I’m glad nobody was killed and this kid shouldn’t be allowed to drive again for a long time. His victims & his judge really need to “drive” home to him the “impact” this has had on lives.


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