The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the New York State Thruway Authority today used the occasion of the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, November 1 to 8, and the upcoming end of Daylight Saving Time to remind motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving. Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 1.
“Drowsiness and fatigue are contributing factors in thousands of crashes every year on our highways, causing fatalities and injuries that could have been prevented,” said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan. “All motorists should be alert to the warning signs of fatigue, particularly as we adjust to standard time, and take the appropriate steps to ensure that they never drive while drowsy.”
In 2014, according to DMV statistics, there were 4,520 crashes statewide in which fatigue/drowsiness or driver fell asleep listed as a contributing factor on a police crash report. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that each year 100,000 crashes are reported to police nationally in which drowsy driving or driver fatigue is cited as a contributing factor. NHTSA estimates that those crashes result in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in losses annually.
Drivers most at risk for crashes due to drowsy driving include commercial truck drivers, late-night shift workers, parents caring for young children, people with untreated sleep disorders, and young drivers.
To increase awareness of this issue, the New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) is promoting a “Stay Awake, Stay Alive” message during the NSF’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. The NYPDD was created in 2004 as a joint effort to educate the public and high-risk groups about the dangers of drowsy driving and promote preventive strategies. Members of the NYPDD include representatives from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), NYS Department of Health, NYS Association of Chiefs of Police (NYSACOP), NYS Thruway Authority, New York State Police, DMV, NYS Motor Truck Association, AAA New York State, NYS Association of Traffic Safety Boards, NYS Movers and Warehousemen’s Association and NYS Department of Transportation.
As part of the campaign, from Friday, October 30, through the morning of Monday, November 2, the “Stay Awake, Stay Alive” message will be displayed on message boards along the New York State Thruway, the I-87 Northway, and other major roadways statewide.
“Drivers need to pay attention to signs of fatigue whenever they’re on our state’s roads and highways,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. “If you find yourself struggling to focus, missing your turns or fighting to keep your head up, it’s time to pull over and take a rest.”
“The Thruway is one of the safest superhighways in the nation and keeping it that way is a priority. Drowsy driving is always a concern, but as Daylight Saving Time draws to a close, it is important to remind motorists of just how dangerous it is,” said Thruway Authority Executive Director Robert L. Megna. “Getting proper rest before driving is not a suggestion, it is imperative to the safety and lives of all motorists.”
Sleepiness can slow a driver’s reaction time, increasing the odds of a crash. It can also impair vision and judgment and delay the processing of information. Motorists should get adequate sleep before driving, take breaks about every 100 miles or two hours, and bring a passenger to help keep them awake and share the driving responsibilities. Never drink alcohol before driving, and always be aware of the potential side effects of any medications.
Opening a window, turning on air conditioning or playing loud music should not be relied upon to overcome fatigue, and caffeine offers only a short-term increase in driver alertness. Drivers who experience drowsiness should pull over and find a safe place for a rest or to sleep for the night.
For more information about the dangers of drowsy driving and strategies to avoid it, visit the GTSC’s Drowsy Driving & Fatigue page, the National Sleep Foundation’s Facts About Drowsy Driving and NHTSA’s Research on Drowsy Driving.
Additional driver safety tips and information are available by visiting the DMV’s website and the GTSC website.