After a particularly grueling 15-hour workday, Anson Williams fell asleep behind the wheel. Within seconds of doing so, he’d veered off the road and was abruptly jarred awake by the rocking motions of his car.
“It was a really hot day and I was driving home through the Palmdale desert in California,” Williams, 68, recalls. “[Without realizing it], I’d gone off the road and only woke up when I started bouncing around. I’m lucky to be alive; God knows what could have happened.”
It’s been 18 years since the former Happy Days star (he played fan favourite Warren “Potsie” Weber) had his near-death experience, but it left the actor-director shaken to the core and determined to combat drowsy driving. To do so, he enlisted the help of his famous uncle, Dr. Henry Heimlich (creator of the Heimlich Maneuver). Together, the two concocted the perfect antidote: Alert Drops, which only requires a simple spritz of lemon juice right to the centre of the tongue to wake you up.
“Dr. Heimlich explained to me how the citric acid in a lemon, when bitten, will hit the lingual nerve [at the centre of your tongue] and your brain will wake up instantly,” Williams says. “You know how you go to a doctors’ office and they test your reflexes by tapping your knees? It’s the same thing. It’s an automatic reaction. There’s nothing magical about it, it’s just the way the body works. So I started cutting up lemons and keeping them in my car and never [fell asleep at the wheel] again.”
Williams—whose birth name is Anson Heimlich—later reached out to his business partner, Joanna Connell, and the two endeavored to create a natural, travel-friendly lemon spray that also raises awareness about this citric lifesaver.
“There’s 168 million Americans that drive while drowsy,” he says, referencing a recent study. “One out of five people admit to falling asleep, yet no one talks about it.”
Consider this: The human mouth carries between 5,000 and 10,000 taste buds, with each bud containing more than 50 receptors that transmit information directly to the brain. The “sour” taste message received via a lemon travels through the nerve fibers to the brain and reaches the sensory cortex, instantly alerting you to your surroundings.
“We found the perfect combination with the lemon,” Williams says. “Alert Drops are 60 percent citric acid, sour lemon and water with some sodium benzoate [a food preservative]. One spray can last up to 30 minutes and if you need it again, do it again!”