Press Release - 03-10-2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 10, 2017
MOTORISTS REMINDED OF DANGERS OF DROWSY DRIVING AS START OF DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME APPROACHES
Multi-Agency Partnership Promotes Safe Driving Before Start of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, March 12
The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and other member organizations of a statewide partnership today reminded motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving ahead of the start of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, March 12. The New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) is emphasizing that drowsy driving is impaired driving. As part of the partnership’s campaign, a “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 from Friday, March 10 through Monday, March 13.
“Studies have shown that drowsy driving is dangerous and can have tragic consequences,” said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting GTSC Chair Terri Egan. “Being fatigued can slow reaction time, impair vision and judgment, and delay the processing of information. This, in turn, can increase the odds of crashes, injuries and fatalities on our roadways. As the clocks change and the weather gets nicer, I urge motorists to stay awake and stay alive.”
A study conducted by researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia showed that being awake for 18 hours produced an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours. In comparison, .08 is considered legally drunk. The National Sleep Foundation warns that drivers who are fatigued can fall asleep for just a few seconds and not realize it. At 65 miles an hour, a vehicle can travel the length of a football field while the driver is in an unconscious state.
In 2015, according to statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR), “fatigue/drowsy driving” or “driver fell asleep” were factors in 4,330 police-reported crashes statewide. Preliminary figures for 2016 show those same factors contributed to 4,552 police-reported crashes statewide.
Police-reported crash data underestimates the scope of the problem because the involvement of drowsiness or fatigue is difficult for police to detect. Unlike drunk driving, there is no subjective or objective tool – a sleep breathalyzer – available to help law enforcement detect if a crash was the result of a driver operating on too little sleep.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that at least 100,000 crashes in the U.S. each year are caused by drowsy driving, resulting in more than 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion monetary losses.
Groups at an increased risk for drowsy driving include shift workers, commercial drivers, high school and college students, new parents, business travelers, young male drivers, and people with untreated sleep disorders. However, surveys have found all motorists are at risk for drowsy driving. In a 2015 Traffic Safety Culture Index conducted by AAA, 47.8 percent called drowsy driving a very serious threat, and 83.2 percent said it is completely unacceptable, yet 31.5 percent of drivers admitted doing it in the past month.
Motorists should always be aware of the warning signs of drowsy driving. They include: drifting from lane to lane; repeated yawning; difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open; can’t remember the last few miles driven or how you got to a particular location; missing traffic signals; tailgating; and driving on rumble strips or the shoulder of the road.
Common strategies to fight drowsiness, such as opening the window, turning on the air conditioning or playing loud music, are not effective in keeping drivers alert for an extended period of time. Commercial drivers should not exceed their hours of service driving and take the required rest breaks. Tips for all motorists to avoid driving while drowsy include: get a good night’s sleep before taking a trip; if you feel sleepy while driving, pull over at a rest stop or safe parking lot to take a nap for at least 15 to 20 minutes; take frequent breaks at rest areas or travel plazas; bring a friend to share the driving, switching every two hours, or 100 miles; never drink alcohol before driving; and be aware of the side effects of any medications you are taking.
The New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) educates the public and high-risk groups about the dangers of fatigued and drowsy driving, and promotes preventive strategies, especially around Drowsy Driving Prevention (November) and Sleep Awareness (March) weeks, which precede the daylight saving time changes. NYPDD members include representatives from GTSC, DMV, NYS Department of Health, NYS Association of Chiefs of Police, the New York State Thruway Authority, New York State Police, NYS Motor Truck Association, AAA Hudson Valley, New York Association for Pupil Transportation, NYS Association of Traffic Safety Boards, NYS Department of Transportation and NYS Sheriffs’ Association.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll said, “Drowsy driving doesn’t just put your life at risk – you are also risking the lives of your passengers, fellow motorists, and workers whose jobs require them to be on our roads and bridges. They are out there making our highways and byways safer for all of us – and their lives can depend on you. When you spring ahead this weekend, please stay safe and remember that drowsy driving is impaired driving.”
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “A drowsy driver can be every bit as dangerous as a driver who is speeding, distracted or impaired. Drowsy driving causes thousands of injuries and deaths each year. Please recognize the symptoms of fatigue and make responsible decisions before operating a vehicle. Together, we can keep our roads safe.”
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Drowsy driving can be deadly. Yawning repeatedly, struggling to keep your eyes open, and swerving between lanes may be indications that you need to stop driving and rest. As we begin daylight saving time, make an extra effort to get enough sleep and don’t put yourself or others at risk.”
Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Bill Finch said, “Keeping the Thruway safe is our top priority, and educating motorists about the dangers of drowsy driving is critical in that effort. We are proud to be a partner in the Stay Awake! Stay Alive! Campaign which urges all motorists to be responsible and stay off the road when feeling tired or fatigued.”
For more information about the dangers of drowsy driving and strategies to avoid it, visit the GTSC's Drowsy Driving and Fatigue webpage. To view and share GTSC’s public service announcement about drowsy driving, “Wake Up,” at YouTube. Additional driver safety tips and information are available by visiting the DMV's website and the GTSC website.