ROAD TO ZERO

Utah Teen Survives Crash, Urges Others Not To Drive Drowsy

May 21, 2021, 7:47 PM | Updated: 8:25 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – It’s only takes dozing off for five to ten seconds behind the wheel before something terrible can happen. This is an especially important message before the summer road trip season, but tragic events can also happen on short drives close to home. One Utah teen is sharing his story.

For the Batallas, soccer is a family affair. 17-year-old Juan Batalla is not only passionate about the sport, but he’s also really good. He’s been on the field since he was about seven years old.

17-year-old Juan Batalla is not only passionate about playing soccer, he’s also really good. (Used by permission, Juan Batalla)

“It’s just, I feel so happy when I play,” he described.

He plays attacking midfielder for Judge Memorial High School and a club team, which often means multiple games on a weekend. That was the case in early April.

“And then Saturday, I had two games. Both were 90 minutes,” he said. In total, Batalla played four games over three days and worked the closing shift at his new job doing dishes. “Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night,” he said.

On April 12th, 17-year-old Juan Batalla was in a serious car crash after falling asleep at the wheel. (Used by permission, Juan Batalla)

Needless to say, Batalla was exhausted by the end of the weekend. “I was pretty tired. I mean, looking back at it and like seeing what my body went through? I could see myself sleeping,” he reflected.

As he was heading home after a late night with friends after work, he recalled seeing the city lights. “I remember seeing that and then it just got dark,” he described.

Batalla crashed in between two barriers near Fort Union on I-215 around 2 a.m. “It was so fast. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t think,” he recalled. “I woke up and then I was calling my dad and he said, ‘Everything’s gonna be okay.’”

An X-ray of Juan’s repaired hip after five hours of surgery. (Used by permission, Juan Batalla)

He suffered cuts, gashes, and a broken hip, requiring a five-hour surgery and nine screws.

UDOT Spokesperson John Gleason said we are all susceptible to fatigue. “We don’t all text and drive. We aren’t all aggressive drivers. But, but we all need our sleep,” he said, explaining that it only takes nodding off for a few seconds before something terrible can happen.

Gleason said if you catch yourself blinking more off than usual, or can’t remember the last mile or two that you’ve driven, it’s time to act quickly before it’s too late.

Juan in the hospital. (Used by Permission Juan Batalla)

If you feel those signs coming on, that’s your body shutting down. Take all of the appropriate action, get off the road as quickly as possible in a safe spot, so that maybe you can close your eyes for a few minutes, get out of the car, walk around, [or] if you have another passenger with you trade-off,” he said.

Gleason says Utah has more than 1,000 drowsy driving-related crashes every year, a number that is considered to be severely underreported. So far, there have been a total of 57 drowsy driving-related teen crashes this year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released data showing the nation’s youngest licensed drivers on the road are 78 percent more likely to be tired when in a car crash than drivers between the ages of 40 and 49-years-old. Statistics show teens are more likely to be in a serious crash at night, with a majority of drivers under the age of 25 being responsible for fatigue-related crashes. Most teenage crash deaths occurred between 6-9 PM (18%), followed closely by 9 PM to midnight (16%), and 3-6 PM (15%).

“If you’re asking yourself the question, ‘Am I too tired to drive?’ The answer is usually ‘Yes,’” Gleason said. “You need to pull over you need to get off the road. Protect yourself and protect everyone out there on the roads.”

17-year-old Juan Batalla shows his scars after surviving a serious car crash in which he fell asleep at the wheel. (KSL TV)

Batalla won’t be back on the soccer field until October, but he just feels lucky to be alive. “Just thinking about it brings emotion. I don’t know. Like, where would I be? I don’t want to think about that,” he said.

His message today is simple: “Just listen to your body and just make smarter choices… life’s too short,” Batalla said.

Gleason urges drivers taking road trips this summer to take a break every hour and a half to two hours to get out of the car and change drivers often. Although it’s easy to get wrapped in late nights finishing work or school, he urges drivers to get adequate sleep before hitting the road.

“If you push it long enough, sleep will always win. You just don’t want to be behind the wheel when sleep does win out,” he said. He says rolling down the window or turning on the radio to help you stay awake doesn’t work.

The Batalla family expressed their gratitude for everyone who has supported them during this time. Our Lady of Lourdes school is hosting a fundraiser for the family. You can make a contribution to help the family here.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Road to Zero

...
Ayanna Likens

Utah sees rise in auto-pedestrian crashes

An alarming concern on Utah roads — a rise in auto-pedestrian crashes, including three that happened within the last 24 hours.
6 days ago
Utah Highway Patrol troopers were citing unsafe drivers on I-15 near the Point of the Mountain. (KS...
Matt Rascon

UHP cracks down on unsafe drivers along I-15

Utah Highway Patrol troopers were out in force Wednesday, to remind drivers to slow down along a stretch of I-15 known for its speeding.
8 days ago
(Spanish Fork Fire Department)...
Josh Ellis, Karah Brackin, & Ladd Egan

2 killed in separate Utah Co. crashes; 1 injured after hitting school bus in Clearfield

Emergency crews responded to fatal crashes in Saratoga Springs and Spanish Fork Canyon while two crashes caused heavy delays in Davis County Monday morning.
10 days ago
FILE PHOTO (Maryland State Police)...
Ayanna Likens

How to make sure your child’s car seat is properly installed

It's Child Passenger Safety week, and it's crucial that your kids are properly buckled in before you hit the road.
14 days ago
A collection of 45 pairs of shoes honors the 45 individuals killed in auto-pedestrian crashes in Ut...
Jed Boal

45 killed in auto-pedestrian crashes honored with 45 shoes

A collection of 45 pairs of shoes honors the 45 individuals killed in auto-pedestrian crashes in Utah last year.
22 days ago
...
Shara Park

Trauma surgeon gives sobering perspective as Utah wraps up its 100 Deadliest Days

While the number of Utahns killed during the summer months is slightly down compared to last year, we're still seeing a record number of people killed on our roadways. KSL's Shara Park looks at the concerning trends and shares a perspective from someone who has dedicated his life to saving yours.
28 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Utah Teen Survives Crash, Urges Others Not To Drive Drowsy