ALBANY, NY -- Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) Barbara J. Fiala today used the occasion of the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, Nov. 2-9, 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 2.
"Every year, drowsiness and fatigue are contributing factors in thousands of crashes on our roadways, resulting in fatalities and injuries that could have been avoided," said Commissioner Fiala. “As we make the adjustment to standard time, and also during the holiday travel season, motorists – particularly younger drivers – must be alert to the warning signs of fatigue and avoid driving while drowsy.”
In 2013, there were 3,244 crashes statewide involving a driver who fell asleep at the wheel and another 1,228 in which fatigue/drowsiness was a contributing factor. 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 monetary 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. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of young people ages 16-24, and fatigue is a common contributing factor.
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 that runs from Nov. 2-9, 2014. 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 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.
During Drowsy Driving Prevention Week the “Stay Awake, Stay Alive” message will be displayed on variable message boards along the New York State Thruway, the I-87 Northway and other major roadways statewide. The message will air from 5-9 a.m. and from 2-6 p.m. to coincide with the morning and afternoon commutes.
“Feeling drowsy is dangerous when you are driving,” said John A. Corlett, Legislative Committee Chairman for AAA New York State which serves 2.6 million members. “Drowsy driving slows reaction time and impairs a driver’s judgment, just like alcohol or drugs. The impact that this has on traffic safety cannot be understated.” Corlett noted that, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, more than a third of drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives, and more than one in ten has fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past year.
“Operating a motor vehicle while drowsy and fatigued is a contributing factor in thousands of crashes on our roadways,” said NYSACOP President Michael Ranalli. “Our law enforcement agencies are unified in supporting this collaborative statewide educational and awareness partnership. Don’t risk your trip and the safety of other highway users by driving drowsy. Get home safely; STAY AWAKE! STAY ALIVE!”
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. The warning signs of drowsy driving include difficulty in keeping one’s eyes open, repeated yawning, wandering or disconnected thoughts, drifting from the driving lane and failure to remember the last few miles driven. 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 to find a safe place for a rest or to sleep for the night.
Driver safety tips and information are available by visiting the DMV's Web site at dmv.ny.gov or the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee Web site at safeny.ny.gov.