Lebanon’s Jewell back from auto accident, more aware of ‘drowsy driving’ dangers

Lebanon High's Maddie Jewell, left, carries the ball against Inter Lakes-Moultonborough on May 11, 2022, in Lebanon, N.H. A member of the class of 2024, Jewell has fully recovered from injuries suffered during an automobile crash in November of 2023 when she fell asleep at the wheel. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lebanon High's Maddie Jewell, left, carries the ball against Inter Lakes-Moultonborough on May 11, 2022, in Lebanon, N.H. A member of the class of 2024, Jewell has fully recovered from injuries suffered during an automobile crash in November of 2023 when she fell asleep at the wheel. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file photographs — Tris Wykes

Maddie Jewell

Maddie Jewell —Tris Wykes

Maddie Jewell is shown during an October 20, 2022, soccer game in Lebanon, N.H. A member of the Lebanon High class of 2024, Jewell has fully recovered from injuries suffered during an automobile crash in November of 2023 when she fell asleep at the wheel. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Maddie Jewell is shown during an October 20, 2022, soccer game in Lebanon, N.H. A member of the Lebanon High class of 2024, Jewell has fully recovered from injuries suffered during an automobile crash in November of 2023 when she fell asleep at the wheel. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Maddie Jewell is shown during an October 20, 2022, soccer game in Lebanon, N.H. A member of the Lebanon High class of 2024, Jewell has fully recovered from injuries suffered during an automobile crash in November of 2023 when she fell asleep at the wheel. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Maddie Jewell is shown during an October 20, 2022, soccer game in Lebanon, N.H. A member of the Lebanon High class of 2024, Jewell has fully recovered from injuries suffered during an automobile crash in November of 2023 when she fell asleep at the wheel. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Maddie Jewell is shown during a February 15, 2024, basketball game in Lebanon, N.H. A member of the Lebanon High class of 2024, Jewell has fully recovered from injuries suffered during an automobile crash in November of 2023 when she fell asleep at the wheel. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Maddie Jewell is shown during a February 15, 2024, basketball game in Lebanon, N.H. A member of the Lebanon High class of 2024, Jewell has fully recovered from injuries suffered during an automobile crash in November of 2023 when she fell asleep at the wheel. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file — Tris Wykes

Maddie Jewell is shown during a February 15, 2024, basketball game in Lebanon, N.H. A member of the Lebanon High class of 2024, Jewell has fully recovered from injuries suffered during an automobile crash in November of 2023 when she fell asleep at the wheel. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Maddie Jewell is shown during a February 15, 2024, basketball game in Lebanon, N.H. A member of the Lebanon High class of 2024, Jewell has fully recovered from injuries suffered during an automobile crash in November of 2023 when she fell asleep at the wheel. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file photograph —Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-09-2024 5:16 PM

Modified: 05-09-2024 6:40 PM


PLAINFIELD — Maddie Jewell realized she was tired when she embarked on the half-hour drive home from Grantham late on a Saturday night last November.

It had been a busy start to the school year for Jewell, a three-sport student-athlete at Lebanon High. She’d recently completed her own soccer season. Twice she had driven to Nashua to support Lebanon’s boys team in the NHIAA Division II semifinals and finals and gotten up early the next day.

She also had recently completed the last of seven college applications. To top it off, Jewell isn’t the type of teenager to sleep in on the weekends. So on the drive that night, she took drinks from a water bottle and turned her stereo up while rolling the windows down in an effort to remain alert.

However, she had the heat turned on, and partway through the ride, she rolled the SUV’s windows back up. A heavy coat likely contributed to the warm, disconnected feeling that eventually overtook her.

“I did not imagine myself to be in that situation, ever,” Jewell said. “I used to wonder how people fell asleep at the wheel, but it happened so quick.”

Jewell remembers hitting a mailbox on Stage Road, not far from her house, but she’s doesn’t recall getting out of her upturned vehicle.

Her memory of events kicks back in as she’s scrambling up the wooded embankment to reach an adjacent house and receiving assistance from its occupants. The whole sequence remains a bit surreal.

The Plainfield police report states: “The vehicle left the roadway on the right hand side, struck a mailbox, guidewire pole for the power lines and then struck a roughly 5 foot in diameter pine tree.”

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Maddie Jewell was saved from ejection by her seat belt, but its grip broke her collarbone and caused internal bleeding in her lower torso. Her hands suffered cuts from glass shards, some of which remained lodged under the skin.

To top it off, Jewell’s nose absorbed a hard whack from an airbag, bringing a rush of blood down her face.

An ambulance ride and six hours in the emergency room followed.

Maddie Jewell’s Kia Telluride rested on its roof, its windows blown out by the impact of hitting a tree on an embankment and rolling over before landing back on Stage Road.

Deployed airbags hung limp, and the blaring stereo provided an eerie soundtrack to a scene filled with flashing lights from assembled emergency vehicles.

“If I had just pulled up to that scene without hearing the phone call, I wouldn’t have thought she was alive,” Amanda Jewell said. “I’m surprised the entire town didn’t hear me crying.”

Maddie’s father, Chris, insisted she drive again two days later, just a quick trip to the local country store to quash long-term fear. He drove her to school for the next week, but she was then back to doing so on her own.

On Jan. 13, Jewell returned to action with the basketball team but it’s taken until lacrosse season to feel fully recovered. Jewell has scored more than 130 goals during her high school lacrosee career and she has plans to compete for Boston’s Emmanuel College next spring.

Jewell wasn’t intoxicated during her crash. She hadn’t been partying, and there was no one else in the vehicle to distract her.

She was returning from a quiet night at a friend’s house in Grantham and fell asleep at the wheel. It’s a common danger that might not leap to mind when worrying about teen driving, but the statistics are sobering.

Drivers age 16 to 24 are at the greatest risk for what the National Transportation Safety Board calls “drowsy driving,” and the National Safety Council estimates that such drivers constitute at least 50% of drowsy driving crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2022, fatigued U.S. drivers of all ages were involved in 91,000 crashes, resulting in 693 deaths.

“It’s not something people think about, especially parents,” Amanda Jewell said. “We have to pay attention to what kind of days and weeks our kids are having.”

Sara Ecker is Lebanon’s 30-year girls lacrosse coach and a licensed teen mental health counselor, as well as the mother of two high schoolers. She was shocked at news of Jewell’s crash but not surprised by its cause.

“Our kids are not getting enough sleep, and there are so many studies that show that mental health suffers because of that,” Ecker said. “They’re constantly on the move and trying to fit in 100 things.

“There’s so much pressure to live up to the next person and because of that, they burn the candle at both ends, academically and socially.”

Maddie Jewell now drives a longer route home from her friend’s house in Grantham, one that takes her through downtown Lebanon and out to Route 12A. The lights and movement are a contrast to Plainfield’s quiet roads, and she believes they are more likely to keep her awake.

She also hasn’t driven after 11 p.m. since her crash.

“I think it’s very important that people listen to their bodies,” Maddie Jewell said. “And I haven’t put myself back in that situation.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.