Press Release - 03-08-2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 8, 2024

MOTORISTS WARNED OF DROWSY DRIVING RISK
AS DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME BEGINS

Time Change Can Lead to Driver Fatigue and Drowsiness

New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving to Promote “Stay Awake, Stay Alive” Message

NYPDD Launches Contest Among College Students to Raise Awareness about Risks of Drowsy Driving and Showcases Student PSAs

The New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) today warned of the dangers of drowsy driving as Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at 2 a.m. The partnership is promoting a "Stay Awake! Stay Alive!" message before and after the time change as a reminder that drivers should be alert.

“Most people don’t realize how dangerous drowsy driving can be, but the truth is it can pose just as much of a risk as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” said Mark J.F. Schroeder, NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC). “Drowsiness and fatigue can impair a driver’s judgment and slow their reaction time, increasing the odds of a crash. Combined with driver inexperience, the risk is even greater, which is why we are raising awareness for all drivers, and giving special attention to young drivers.”

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 24 hours without sleep has similar effects on driving ability as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10 percent. GHSA also estimates that drowsy driving is a contributing factor in 328,000 crashes nationwide annually, and more than half of them involve drivers 25-years-old and younger.

In New York last year, according to the 2023 preliminary crash statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR) at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College, there were 2,939 crashes statewide in which police reported that the “driver fell asleep.” Of those crashes, 12 involved at least one fatality and 1,008 involved at least one injury. Also in 2023, “fatigue/drowsy driving” was selected as a contributing factor in 1,231 police-reported crashes, of which one was a fatal crash and 447 resulted in injuries.

Education Campaign

Since college students are among the most at risk for drowsy driving, the Partnership has been focusing its outreach efforts on State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) campuses with younger drivers, as well as in counties where statewide crash data reflects a higher incidence of crashes in which the driver fell asleep or drowsiness or fatigue was reported as a contributing factor.

The New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Thruway Authority will also help raise awareness about the dangers of drowsy driving. During a three-day campaign that begins Saturday, March 9, variable message signs along major roadways will tell motorists to “STAY AWAKE, STAY ALIVE.”

The NYPDD and NY Students Against Destructive Decisions (NY SADD) are again sponsoring a “Stay Awake! Stay Alive!” Public Service Announcement (PSA) Challenge for students at 18 SUNY and CUNY schools. Participants will create a 25-second video to raise awareness about drowsy driving, vying for cash awards of $2,500, $1,500, or $1,000, respectively, for first-, second- and third-place.

Additional details and a link to view previous winning PSAs can be found on the SADD website. Last year’s winning PSAs are also running on screens in DMV offices and New York State Thruway rest areas.

Besides college students, other groups identified as most at risk of driving while drowsy include commercial drivers, particularly tractor trailer, tour bus and public transit drivers; people who work long hours or late-night shifts; people with sleep disorders; new parents or caregivers of infants and young children; high school students; and young and newer drivers.

Effects of Driving Drowsy and Prevention

Sleepiness can slow a driver’s reaction time, impair vision and judgment, and delay the processing of information, increasing the odds of a crash. Drivers should get adequate sleep before driving, take a break about every 100 miles or every two hours, and bring a passenger to help keep them awake and share the driving. Do not drink alcohol before driving, and always be aware of the potential side effects of any medications.

Common strategies to avoid drowsiness, such as opening a window, turning on air conditioning or playing loud music should not be relied upon to overcome fatigue. The safest thing to do when experiencing drowsiness while driving is to pull over and find a safe place to sleep.

For more information about the dangers of drowsy driving and strategies to avoid it, visit the GTSC’s Drowsy Driving Awareness webpage; the Stony Brook University School of Health Profession’s educational and interactive website, StopDrowsyDriving.org; the National Sleep Foundation’s Facts About Drowsy Driving, DOH’s website; and NHTSA’s research on drowsy driving.

“It is imperative that drivers stay off the road when tired for the health and safety of themselves and others,” State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “Getting adequate sleep before driving, avoiding alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness, and taking breaks during long drives can all prevent events that could become catastrophic."

“Even though the transition to Daylight Saving Time is just an hour, the difference can impact your sleep schedule and put you at risk for drowsy driving,” Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Frank G. Hoare, Esq.said.  “Drowsy driving can have the same effect as driving impaired - it can affect alertness, thinking and decision making, and lead to crashes. Motorists should be aware of the warning signs of fatigue and what steps to take if they feel drowsy behind the wheel. Making safe and responsible decisions can save lives.”

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “Springing ahead an hour for Daylight Saving Time is another milestone signifying that winter is nearly at an end - and with it comes warmer weather and longer days. But with the ‘extra hour of daylight,’ it is important to remember that this change can be disruptive to routines as well as sleep cycles. It is every motorist’s responsibility to look out for the warning signs of drowsy driving. If you are too tired to drive, stay off the road, and if you feel yourself getting drowsy behind the wheel, please pull over safely. Don’t sleep on safe driving.”

“Unfortunately, and often with tragic results, few people recognize the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while fatigued or sleep deprived,” New York State Police Acting Superintendent Steven G. James said. “The New York State Police urges all motorists to recognize the symptoms of fatigue and make responsible decisions before operating their vehicles. Through continued education and collaboration, the New York State Police continues to work with our law enforcement partners to make New York’s roads safer by bringing awareness to the dangers of drowsy driving.”

Lisa M. Endee, Clinical Associate Professor at Stony Brook University, explains that “sufficient and good quality sleep is essential to optimal health and safety. Sleep loss is an impairment which increases the risk of drowsy driving. Yet, many do not consider the consequences of getting behind the wheel when sleep deprived. Our initiatives aim to raise awareness about the signs, dangers, and prevention of drowsy driving, adding DROWSY to the other D’s of impaired driving (drunk, drugged, and distracted).”

About the NYPDD

Established in 2004, the NYPDD seeks to educate the public and high-risk groups about the dangers of drowsy driving and promote preventive strategies. Members include representatives from the GTSC, DOH, Thruway Authority, DOT, NYSP, the NYS Association of Chiefs of Police, the Trucking Association of New York, AAA Hudson Valley, the NYS Association of Traffic Safety Boards, NYS Sheriffs’ Association, NYS SADD and SUNY Stony Brook.

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