Press Release - 03-09-2018

DMV News banner


Friday, March 9, 2018

Tiffany Portzer



DMV, GTSC, DOT, DOH, State Police and Thruway Authority Emphasize Need to Remain Alert While Behind the Wheel

Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. As we “spring ahead,” state leaders are reminding motorists about the dangers of drowsy driving.


The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), State Police, Thruway Authority, Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Health (DOH) and other member organizations of a statewide partnership all encouraged New Yorkers to take steps to avoid driving while fatigued and to be alert to other drivers who may be drowsy.


Daylight Saving Time begins when clocks are set forward at 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Sunday, March 11. DOT and the Thruway Authority plan to have Variable Message Signs (VMS) lit over the Daylight Saving Time weekend reminding drivers of the need to avoid drowsy driving.


When you are drowsy, reaction time slows, judgment is impaired, and the risk of a crash increases. In 2016, according to statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR), “fatigue/drowsy driving” or “driver fell asleep” were factors in 4,811 police-reported crashes statewide. According to the State Health Department, a crash occurs in New York State every two hours because someone falls asleep at the wheel. Seven people go to the hospital each day as a result of drowsy driving–related injuries.


While all drivers should take care to stay awake and alert, some people are more vulnerable to drowsy driving. They include commercial drivers, including tractor trailer, tour bus, and public transit drivers; people who work long hours or late night shifts; people with sleep disorders; new parents; and high school and college students, young or newer drivers.


According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, 60 percent of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy and 37 percent admit to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 846 people were killed in 83,000 fatigue-related crashes in 2014, the last year for which data is available. Almost half of those crashes occurred between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.


The number of crashes and fatalities are considered underestimated because drowsy driving crashes are difficult to measure. A new report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the percentage of crashes involving drowsiness is nearly eight times higher than federal estimates indicate. The study analyzed in-vehicle dashcam video from more than 700 crashes. The researchers determined that 9.5 percent of all crashes involved drowsiness. Federal estimates indicate drowsiness is a factor in only 1 to 2 percent of crashes.


DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting GTSC Chair Terri Egan said, “Daylight Saving Time is a great opportunity to remember to take precautions to avoid drowsy driving, but it is something we need to do throughout the year. A few seconds of inattention can lead to tragic results. Getting enough sleep is one of the key ways to prevent drowsy driving especially when you’re going on a long trip.”


Other tips to prevent drowsy driving:

  • Make regular stops or switch drivers every 100 miles or 2 hours.
  • Drivers are most likely to feel drowsy between 1-4 p.m. and 2-6 a.m. If possible, avoid driving during these times.
  • Don’t count on caffeine. It can provide a short fix or ‘pick me up.’ But be aware, it takes 30 minutes before you feel the effect and it can wear off quickly.
  • Avoid prescription and over-the-counter medicines that could make you drowsy.
  • Never drink alcohol. It slows down your reflexes and causes drowsiness.

Opening the windows, turning up the radio, or turning on the air conditioner will not help you stay awake while driving.


Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, “Research shows that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as driving drunk. We urge all motorists to be responsible, alert and aware when traveling. If a motorist is feeling tired, they can pull into one of the Thruway’s 27 Service Areas and additional parking/rest areas located across the system to take a break so they can continue their journey safely.”


New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “Drowsy driving can be every bit as dangerous as speeding or driving while impaired with alcohol or drugs. Yet few people recognize the hazards of operating a motor vehicle while fatigued or sleep deprived.  The New York State Police join with our partners to urge all motorists to recognize the symptoms of fatigue and make responsible decisions before operating their vehicles.”


State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Staying awake and alert behind the wheel is critical to protecting the public health and safety of all New Yorkers. Distracted driving – whether it’s due to drowsiness, texting, dialing, or other activities – endangers motorists’ own lives as well as the lives of others. Prevention is key to keeping drivers, passengers and pedestrians across the state safe.”


State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, “We all need to make slight adjustments for Daylight Saving Time, in our daily routines and also when we get behind the wheel.  Losing an hour of sleep can impact our driving, so we are urging motorists to be alert, to pull over if they feel drowsiness behind the wheel, and avoid potentially tragic consequences.”


Motorists should be aware of signs that you are drowsy and should pull over into a well-lit area and take a 20-minute nap or hand the wheel over to another driver.

  • Yawning repeatedly
  • Struggling to keep your eyes open or focused
  • Forgetting the last few miles driven
  • Tailgating or missing traffic signals
  • Swerving or drifting between lanes of traffic

When you’re not driving, you can take a quiz by New York’s Partnership Against Drowsy Driving to determine whether you are vulnerable to falling asleep behind the wheel.


Even if you fall asleep for less than a second, you risk losing control of your vehicle. When you are drowsy, ask someone else to drive, stop to rest or change your plans. You can read a brochure on drowsy driving (pdf) developed by the state Department of Health or download a free poster (pdf).