Press Release - 10-30-2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 30, 2020
NEW YORK STATE WARNS OF DROWSY DRIVING RISK AS DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME ENDS
Drivers More Likely to Feel Fatigued When Daylight Saving Time Ends and Begins
New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving to Promote “Stay Awake, Stay Alive” Message During Drowsy Driving Prevention Week
As the end of Daylight Saving Time approaches, the New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) today reminded motorists to be aware of the dangers of drowsy driving. Despite gaining an additional hour, this time change can disrupt sleep patterns causing people to feel drowsy. Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 1. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) uses the occasion to begin its Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, November 1 to 8.
“Studies have shown that driving while you are tired or drowsy is as risky as driving while impaired by alcohol and can have the same dangerous consequences,” said NYS Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee Mark J.F. Schroeder. “Every motorist should be aware of the warning signs and take steps to avoid drowsy driving, not only as we adjust to standard time, but year-round as well.”
“As we turn the clocks back each fall, our internal clocks must also adjust to new sleep patterns making it sometimes difficult to realize when we are too tired to drive which can have dangerous consequences on our roadways," said New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "We urge all New Yorkers to make sure to get enough sleep and if you haven't, make the smart decision not to drive until you are rested.”
Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, “Driving while drowsy can have dangerous consequences. When adjusting to the time change it’s important to remain alert behind the wheel and know the warning signs of fatigued driving. If you’re too tired to drive, find another driver or adjust your schedule to get enough sleep. Making safe and smart decisions can save lives.”
State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “The safety of the traveling public is always the Department of Transportation’s top priority and we urge all motorists to help prevent tragedies by staying awake and alert behind the wheel and getting off the road when they start to feel drowsy. With the time change, shorter hours of daylight and disruptions in sleep schedules, this time of year can be disruptive for drivers, so it’s important that all motorists be aware of the warning signs of drowsy driving and pull over if they do not feel alert. Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”
New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett said, “Very few people are aware that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as speeding, distracted driving or driving while impaired. It’s critically important that drivers recognize the symptoms of fatigue and make responsible decisions before operating a motor vehicle.”
In 2019, according to statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR) at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College, “fatigue/drowsy driving” and/or “driver fell asleep” were listed 5,713 times as contributing factors on police crash reports statewide. So far in 2020, according to preliminary figures from ITSMR, those same factors have been listed 2,410 times on police crash reports from across the state. Nationally, it is estimated that in 2017, drowsy driving contributed to 91,000 police-reported crashes and nearly 800 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
To raise awareness of the dangers of driving while drowsy or fatigued, the NYPDD is promoting a “Stay Awake, Stay Alive” message during Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. As part of this effort, the “Stay Awake, Stay Alive” message will be visible on variable message signs along the New York State Thruway October 30 through November 2 and member agencies will be promoting the safety message through social media and newsletters.
The NYPDD also cautions that 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. It can take a half-hour to feel the effects of caffeine and that provides only a short-term increase in driver alertness. The safest thing to do when drivers experience drowsiness is to pull over and find a safe place to sleep.
Last year, the National Road Safety Foundation (NRSF) sponsored the “Stay Awake! Stay Alive!” public service announcement (PSA) contest for students at six SUNY campuses to raise awareness of the unique dangers of driving while drowsy. The winning PSAs can be found on the NRSF website. NYS Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) has partnered with the NYPDD and will sponsor a similar “PSA Challenge” in the spring of 2021. Additional details will be announced later.
While anyone can be at risk for drowsy driving, some groups have been identified as most vulnerable, including: 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; young and newer drivers; and college and high school students.
The warning signs of drowsy driving include repeated yawning; struggling to keep one’s eyes open and focused; forgetting the last few miles driven; tailgating or missing traffic signals; and swerving or drifting between lanes of traffic.
Sleepiness can slow a driver’s reaction time, impair vision and judgment and delay the processing of information, increasing the odds of a crash. Motorists 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.
For more information about the dangers of drowsy driving and strategies to avoid it, visit the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee Drowsy Driving Awareness webpage, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook School of Health Technology & Management’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.
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 Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, NYS Department of Health, New York State Thruway Authority, NYS Department of Transportation, New York State Police, NYS Association of Chiefs of Police, Trucking Association of New York, AAA Hudson Valley, NYS Association of Traffic Safety Boards, NYS Sheriffs’ Association, NYS SADD and SUNY Stony Brook.