NYS DMV Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, November 4, 2011

MOTORISTS REMINDED OF DANGERS OF DROWSY DRIVING
Daylight Saving Time Ends Sunday

Officials from various State agencies and organizations concerned with traffic safety are reminding motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving. Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 6.

Organizations supporting the campaign include the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), along with other members of the New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) including: the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV); the New York State Department of Health; the New York State Thruway Authority; the New York State Police; the New York State Motor Truck Association; the New York State Association of Traffic Safety Boards; AAA Hudson Valley; the New York State Movers and Warehousemen's Association; and the New York State Department of Transportation.

"Drowsy driving is a contributing factor in thousands of preventable motor vehicle crashes each year," said DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala. "As it gets dark earlier, motorists should be particularly alert to the warning signs of fatigue and avoid driving while drowsy."

According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2011 Sleep in America® poll, 43 percent of Americans ages 13 to 64 say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on weeknights. More than half of Americans 60 percent say that they experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night, and about two-thirds 63 percent say they do not get enough sleep during the week, according to the poll.

Two out of five drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel, with one in ten saying they've done so in the past year, finds AAA Foundation study.

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico said, "Drowsy driving can be every bit as deadly as speeding or driving while impaired with alcohol or drugs. Yet few people recognize the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while fatigued or sleep deprived. The New York State Police urges all motorists to recognize the symptoms of fatigue and make responsible decisions before operating their vehicles."

"Drowsy driving is a major contributor to highway accidents," said Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Thomas J. Madison. "The Thruway reminds motorists to take breaks to prevent drowsy driving on the Thruway and all other roadways. Drowsy driving ranges from falling asleep at the wheel to not paying attention to driving because of fatigue or lack of sleep. If you have any warning signs of fatigue, then pull off the road and rest."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes each year, resulting in an estimated 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries. In 2010, there were more than 1,200 motor vehicle crashes in New York State in which fatigue/drowsiness was listed as a contributing factor and more than 3,300 that involved a driver falling asleep at the wheel. However, NHTSA still considers drowsy driving to be underreported.

Drivers facing the highest risk for crashes due to drowsy driving include: commercial truck drivers; late-night shift workers; parents taking care of young children; people with untreated sleep disorders; and young drivers. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of young people ages 16-24 and fatigue is a common contributing factor. Studies show that 36 percent of teens drive drowsy on a regular basis and, out of all of the crashes caused by fatigue, 55 percent involve drivers under the age of 25.

Motorists are reminded to be alert to the warning signs of drowsy driving. They 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 and take breaks about every 100 miles or two hours on long trips. On long trips, drivers should bring a passenger to help them stay awake and share the driving responsibilities. Motorists should never drink alcohol before driving and drivers should always be aware of the potential side effects of any medications they are taking as some cause drowsiness.

Common strategies for combating fatigue by drivers including: opening a window, turning on air conditioning or playing loud music, are not effective and caffeine offers only a short-term increase in driver alertness. When a driver experiences drowsiness, the safest alternative is to pull over to rest or sleep for the night.

Driver safety tips and information are available by visiting the DMV's Web site (www.dmv.ny.gov) or the GTSC Web site (www.safeny.ny.gov).

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