Was a tunnel superstition the cause of this accident?

I saw this story and did not immediately notice the link to superstition until it was pointed out to me by the tipster. What’s the Harm in superstition? It can lead to accidents. It appears to be the case here.

Man holding breath in Oregon tunnel causes three-car crash – CBS News.

A 19-year-old man caused a three-car crash when he fainted while holding his breath as he drove through a tunnel northwest of Portland, Oregon State Police said.

Daniel J. Calhon, of Snohomish, Washington, told investigators he fainted Sunday afternoon while holding his breath in the Highway 26 tunnel near the community of Manning, according to a news release. His car, a 1990 Toyota Camry, drifted across the centerline and crashed head-on with a Ford Explorer.

State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings said Monday he’s not sure why Calhon was holding his breath, but some people hold their breaths in tunnels as part of a game or superstition.

Calhon was cited for reckless driving, three counts of reckless endangerment and fourth-degree assault.

It should have only taken 10 seconds to get through the tunnel. But if you hold your breath for a long while, you will go unconscious and, resume breathing. So you can’t hold your breath to death.

Driving Superstitions and the One That Possibly Caused Three Car Accident.

Why did he hold his breath? Well, I found out a few things. There is a superstition that if you hold your breath through a tunnel and make a wish, the wish will come true. Being practical, the first thing I thought of was the stagnant or bad air in a tunnel though most today are ventilated so this is not an issue. Some people also think that holding your breath helps if there is a change in air pressure so your ears do not hurt. That does not seem plausible. Obviously, the wish one is just silly nonsense. Some people also do it when crossing bridges.

Here is an interesting post by a person who truly fears what will happen if the superstition is broken. 36. Breathing in tunnels | THOUSAND THOUGHTS.

Does anyone else still hold their breath when they’re in a car going through a tunnel? I can’t seem to kick the habit, and no matter how long that tunnel is, I’ll turn blue before I dare exhale underground.

We need to lose these crazy supersitions. Yeah, normally they are no big deal and almost never lead to accidents but why be a slave to nonsense? I prefer not to go through life being silly.

Holland Tunnel from New Jersey to New York City.

Holland Tunnel from New Jersey to New York City.

Tip: Jeb Card

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  12 comments for “Was a tunnel superstition the cause of this accident?

  1. May 26, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    The lesson we learn from this incident is that there is always harm in beleiving nonsense, somewhere, sometime where you don’t anticipate it someone will suffer, not normally in such extreme circumstances, but it’s still there.

  2. Michael
    May 26, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    It’s a great game. Ask any parent who has ever taken a road trip with a multitude of little people. You might get through the tunnel in 15 or 20 seconds, but it’s 15 or 20 seconds of quiet. Blessed, pure and beautiful quiet. If it’s a longer tunnel, the driver only pretends to hold her breath (duh).

    • Artor
      June 4, 2014 at 12:36 AM

      The alternative is to drive through a tunnel with the kids begging you nonstop to honk the horn so they can hear it echo. I like a silent option.

  3. Mark Crislip
    May 26, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    I call BS. We have a habit when going through tunnels of yelling “we are all going to die” and hold the word die all the way through a tunnel. I have been through that tunnel hundreds of times and it is easy to shout die all the way through. It would take far longer than the time it takes to go through the tunnel to hold your breath to pass out. Something else was going on, like cardiac syncope induced by breath holding http://www.ajconline.org/article/0002-9149(58)90182-6/abstract

  4. Stephanie
    May 26, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    This is local to me, and I was quite puzzled when I read about it. I have never heard of a superstition like this regarding tunnels. I know a lot of folks like to honk in tunnels, but I’ve never heard of anyone holding their breath.

  5. Haldurson
    May 26, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    Could this actually be OCD with a superstition-based rationalization? I know as someone who suffers from a different sort of mental illness (depression and anxiety) that it’s sometimes easy to rationalize why we do self-destructive things. People with OCD can have habits and rituals that they feel they must carry out. Even if the person believes it will bring him luck, the root-cause may still be mental illness.

  6. Z-one
    May 26, 2014 at 11:49 PM

    I grew up with this tradition as a kid in California, and suspect I learned it from my mother from Massachusetts. We always held our breath going through mountain tunnels, though it was more of a challenge than a superstition. I think I recall hearing the “rationale” was that the dead lie underground and therefore breathing underground could offend them. I know my parents didn’t believe that. It was just a fun challenge for young boys in the back seat on a long drive.

    Meanwhile my very rational father probably rolled his eyes and just honked the horn while he drove through the tunnels. Thank goodness!

  7. John
    May 27, 2014 at 1:17 AM

    Outrageous!
    Maybe cause down here in Australia we don’t have many long tunnels…
    the ‘holding your breath’ superstition we had was for driving past a cemetery!

    Another local one was lifting your feet off the floor of the bus / car as you drove over train lines.

    And don’t forget! Don’t step on a crack, you’ll break you mothers back!

  8. Bonnie
    May 27, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    When I lived in Oregon we drove Sunset Hwy (Hwy 26) many times and I have absolutely no memory of that tunnel – it must be very short! My sisters & I would hold our breath going thru the tunnels in Portland and over bridges, but it was more the challenge, like a timed race. I don’t remember any superstitious beliefs. I’ve sometimes wondered if my mother started that to keep us quiet. :)

  9. Ken DeVries
    June 1, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    To answer your question, no. A superstition was not the cause of this accident. It was playing. A game. Goofing around. “See if you can hold your breath all the way through the tunnel – hey I did it!” That’s not some kind of descent into the darkness of delusion, it’s just a kid trying to have fun. Trying to make everything be superstition and the dreadful perils of believing harmful nonsense seems to me to be almost as absurd as trying to make everything be magical and supernatural. It’s okay to let some things not be part of your ideological platform.

    • June 1, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      And you know this how?

      How do you know that people aren’t a bit too obsessed with believing nonsense just for the fun of it? I hate to say how many times kids are killed in scare dares. None of this is acceptable. Believing stupid things WILL get you in trouble eventually. Maybe not dead but still in trouble. Feel free to believe in nonsense. My platform is show that public that it’s not the best route to follow.

      • Haldurson
        June 1, 2014 at 8:07 PM

        Actually, I agree with Ken. Well technically I agree with both of you. Belief in nonsense can definitely be harmful. That said, the DIRECT cause of the death was not the belief, but the actual practice. It could have been fussing with the radio or AC, or talking on a cell phone (to one’s psychic friend or to ones real friend) or yelling at the kids or simply daydreaming. When you drive, you don’t just hae your own life in your hands, but everyone else’s life in that car and every other driver’s life on that road at that time. It’s a matter of proportion. Holding your breath to make a wish come true is equivalent to blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, UP UNTIL you take the inherent responsibility of driving a car into account. At that point, there’s nothing on the superstition scale that can outbalance getting yourself or others killed. While the flawed belief is what put the idea into the person’s head to begin with, it’s the fact that they didn’t weigh the consequences of not focusing on the driving which ultimately killed them. It didn’t have to be a superstition, it could simply have been taking an allergy pill or having a drink or being distracted by anything other than the road around you. All of those are potentially deadly.

        One question I have — how easy (or hard) is it to actually hold ones breath until one passes out. I’m an older guy so I’m not going to try it even when safely in bed. But I know when I’ve held my breath as a kid, generally what happens is that you gasp for air before you actually pass out, and it’s not completely voluntary. The only time I’ve actually fainted was when I had a very high fever (I also hallucinated at that time). It might happen, but I’ve never actually seen it.

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