Press Release - 11-01-2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 1, 2019
NEW YORK STATE URGES MOTORISTS TO AVOID DROWSY DRIVING 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 3. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) uses the occasion to begin its Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, November 3 to 10.
“Drowsy driving contributes to thousands of crashes every year on our highways, causing deaths and injuries that could have been prevented,” said NYS Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee Mark J.F. Schroeder. “Be alert to the warning signs of fatigue, particularly as we adjust to standard time. If you are feeling drowsy behind the wheel, switch drivers if possible, or find a safe area to pull over and sleep.”
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Driving while drowsy is extremely dangerous and can put the lives of the driver, passengers, and others on the road in peril. We urge New Yorkers to make sure to get enough sleep while adjusting to the time change and to take extra precautions when getting behind the wheel. If you are too tired to drive, hand the keys to someone else or pull over and get some rest.”
“Stay Awake, Stay Alive is a critical message for motorists to be aware of the dangers of drowsy driving,” Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said. “Falling asleep at the wheel can have deadly consequences for everyone on the road, including workers and emergency responders. It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs of fatigued driving and make good decisions to stay alert, and stay safe.”
State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “Getting behind a wheel of a motor vehicle when you are fatigued can have serious consequences, which is why it’s so important to raise awareness of what motorists can do to keep themselves and their families safe. The end of daylight saving time means it’s going to get dark earlier. If you do feel drowsy, please heed the warning signs and pull over safely. Your fellow motorists will thank you.”
New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett said, “A drowsy driver can be every bit as dangerous as a driver who is speeding, distracted or impaired. Often, people don’t recognize the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while fatigued or sleep deprived. Drowsy driving causes thousands of injuries and deaths each year. We encourage motorists to recognize the symptoms of fatigue and make responsible decisions before operating a vehicle. Together we can keep our roads safe.”
In 2018, according to statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR) at the Rockefeller College and the University at Albany, “fatigue/drowsy driving” and/or “driver fell asleep” were listed 5,708 times as contributing factors on police crash reports statewide. So far in 2019, according to preliminary figures from ITSMR, those same factors have been listed 3,512 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.
To raise awareness of the dangers of driving while drowsy or fatigued, the New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving 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 November 1 through November 4.
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 for drivers experiencing drowsiness to do is to pull over and find a safe place for a nap or to sleep for the night.
To further raise awareness, the National Road Safety Foundation is again sponsoring a “Stay Awake! Stay Alive!” public service announcement (PSA) contest on SUNY college campuses. Students are challenged to create PSAs about recognizing the signs of drowsiness as the driver, passenger or others on the road and to share prevention tips. Winning submissions will receive cash prizes and national broadcast on Teen Kids News.
Last Year, the NYPDD partnered with the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook to address the high number of drowsy driving-related crashes in Suffolk County. With funding from the GTSC and the NRSF, Stony Brook’s School of Health Technology & Management (SHTM) developed an educational and interactive website and a curriculum to combat drowsy driving among college students. The website, StopDrowsyDriving.org, includes a sleepiness assessment quiz to help users realize their own risk for drowsy driving, facts and myths about the problem and strategies to help improve sleep habits to reduce incidence of falling asleep at the wheel and resulting crashes. The University also conducts “train-the-trainer” sessions to teach other college educators how to discuss the risks of drowsy driving with their students.
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 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 GTSC's Drowsy Driving & Fatigue page, the National Sleep Foundation’s Facts About Drowsy Driving, DOH’s website and NHTSA’s research on drowsy driving.
NHTSA is also asking motorists to be aware of the importance of vehicle safety by taking the time to check for recalls when they turn their clocks back to standard time. To find out if a vehicle is subject to a recall, use NHTSA’s VIN Search tool on its website.
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, New York Association for Pupil Transportation, NYS Association of Traffic Safety Boards, and NYS Sheriffs’ Association.