Ben Carson: I've Literally Fallen Asleep At The Wheel Several Times

Carson has written of several times he fell asleep at the wheel of a car, including two separate instances that occurred decades apart in which he dodged an 18-wheeler.

Ben Carson's quiet demeanor has led many, including Donald Trump, to poke fun at him for seemingly being asleep all the time.

Trump, joking about falling to second place behind Carson, said at a rally in October, "You know some of them: 'We have a breaking story. Donald Trump has fallen to second place behind Ben Carson. We informed Ben. But he was sleeping."

Jimmy Kimmel even did a segment on his show marketing a "Lullaby Ben" sleep assistant, which uses "actual sound" of Carson to help people go to sleep.

View this video on YouTube

Jokes aside, Carson has written of several instances in which he fell asleep at the wheel of his car. According to his books, he narrowly escaped colliding with an 18-wheeler after falling asleep on the road on two occasions, decades apart.

One such occasion, he writes, is how he knew he was meant to be with his wife Candy.

As a senior at Yale, Carson was driving a sleeping Candy Rustin (now Candy Carson) back to New Haven from Detroit, when he too succumbed to fatigue.

"With my hands relaxed on the wheel, the car flew along at 90 miles per hour," he wrote in his 1990 autobiography Gifted Hands. "The heater, turned on low, kept us comfortably warm. It had been half an hour or more since I'd seen another vehicle. I felt relaxed, everything under control. Then I floated into a comfortable sleep too."

He was abruptly awakened, he says, by the "vibration of the car striking the metal illuminators that separate each lane," at which point he "grabbed the steering wheel, and fiercely jerked to the left." A "heartbeat" after the car came to a stop, "an eighteen-wheeler transport came barreling through on that lane."

It was then, he writes, that Candy told him she thought they were meant to be together and Carson said he thought so too. It's a story he has re-told in other books, such as this year's You Have A Brain.

Fast-forward to 1998, when, according to a friend quoted in a Real Clear Politics piece on Carson, the renowned neurosurgeon had another epiphany after falling asleep while driving.

The RCP story says Carson was "weighed upon" by the death of the friend's daughter and "a late night of surgeries," when he passed out at the wheel, only to be awakened by the "sound of the cars' wheels on the shoulder."

"The episode also awakened Carson to a work-life dynamic that he decided was gravely out of balance, Boyer recalled; the next day, Carson asked that his workload at Johns Hopkins be reduced," RCP reports.

Carson writes of a similar event in his 1999 book The Big Picture. He fell asleep at the wheel twice "in a matter of days," in the weeks before the completion of that book.

The first time it happened, Carson said he was driving home at two in the morning after his seventh operation of the day. Going 70 miles per hour "in light traffic," Carson "dozed off," barely avoiding an "eighteen-wheeler" (just as when he fell asleep while driving back to Yale with his future wife by his side).

"When I suddenly awakened," Carson continued, "I instinctively jerked the wheel of my Buick to the left just in time to avoid drifting under the wheels of an eighteen-wheeler I didn't remember starting to pass."

After the second time he fell asleep at the wheel that week, Carson said it "scared me so badly," he wrote to the administration of Johns Hopkins to inform them that he could no longer perform surgeries so late into the night.

Carson said that his superiors took it well, arguing that ultimately to blame for his exhausting schedule was "the system itself — a system where all the providers, hospitals, as well as doctors, are being squeezed harder and harder by an insurance industry that too often makes profits a higher goal than quality health care."

Carson said in October that his energy levels are "perfectly fine."

Skip to footer