Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today reminded New York motorists to be aware of the dangers of drowsy driving as Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 8. At the Governor’s direction, 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 during morning and afternoon commutes to remind travelers of the dangers of drowsy driving as part of Sleep Awareness Week.
“Fatigue and inattention can be a deadly combination on the road and has caused far too many preventable tragedies New York," Governor Cuomo said. "With the 'Stay Awake, Stay Alive' campaign, we are urging all New Yorkers to be aware of the warning signs of drowsiness before they get behind the wheel, ensuring that New York’s roads are safer for all.”
In 2013, there were 3,244 reported crashes statewide in which the driver fell asleep at the wheel and another 1,228 in which fatigue/drowsiness was cited as a contributing factor. This represents a significant decrease from 2012, when there were 3,399 reported crashes statewide in which the driver fell asleep at the wheel and another 1,374 in which fatigue/drowsiness was cited as a contributing factor.
The New York Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) was created in 2004 to educate the public and high-risk groups about the dangers of drowsy driving and promote the adoption of preventive strategies. Members of NYPDD include representatives from the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, New York State Department of Health, Thruway Authority, New York State Police, Department of Motor Vehicles, New York State Motor Truck Association, New York State Association of Traffic Safety Boards, New York State Movers and Warehousemen's Association and New York State Department of Transportation.
The Partnership has been instrumental in implementing a variety of drowsy driving countermeasures. These initiatives include: developing the nation's first comprehensive public awareness campaign on drowsy driving; revising the police crash report to incorporate a new code for falling asleep; integrating drowsy driving topics into the training provided by New York State Police; developing a standardized, medically accurate curriculum on the risk and prevention of drowsy driving for inclusion in driver education programs; and the installation by DOT and the Thruway Authority of shoulder rumble strips on interstate highways.
The common strategies for avoiding drowsy driving, such as opening a window, turning on air conditioning or playing loud music, will not overcome fatigue, and caffeine offers only a short-term increase in driver alertness. The only effective countermeasure for drowsiness is to find a safe place to pull over for a rest or to sleep for the night.
The Governor’s announcement coincides with National Sleep Awareness Week. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that each year 100,000 crashes are reported to police nationally, in which drowsy driving or driver fatigue is cited as a contributing factor. NHTSA estimates that those crashes result in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses annually.
Other drivers at high risk for crashes due to drowsy driving include commercial truck drivers, parents of young children, people with untreated sleep disorders and young drivers. According to the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), 16- to 24-year-old male drivers have the highest fatigue-related motor vehicle crash rates.
According to the NSF’s annual “Sleep in America” poll, about 60 percent of U.S. motorists admit having driven while feeling sleepy and 37 percent admit to actually falling asleep at the wheel. Sleep experts say someone experiencing drowsiness may be only seconds away from falling asleep. The warning signs of drowsiness include: difficulty focusing, frequent blinking or heavy eyelids; daydreaming, wandering or disconnected thoughts; trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs; yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes; trouble keeping your head up; drifting from your lane, tailgating or hitting a shoulder rumble strip; and feeling restless and irritable.
Motorists should always get adequate sleep before driving and take breaks every two hours or 100 miles. Bringing a passenger on long trips to provide company and share driving responsibilities is also recommended. Motorists should never drink alcohol before driving, and drivers should always be aware of the potential for drowsiness and other side effects of any medications they might be taking.
Acting Executive Director of the Thruway Authority Bob Megna said, “It is vitally important to for all drivers to be aware of the dangers of drowsy driving, especially at this time of year, and motorists should always be properly rested before they get behind the wheel. The Thruway is one of the nation’s safest superhighways, and we depend on drivers to act responsibly at all times to help keep it that way.”
Executive Deputy DMV Commissioner J. David Sampson said, “Despite being underreported, drowsiness or fatigue is still a factor in thousands of crashes every year on New York roadways, resulting in injuries and deaths that could have been prevented. Motorists need to recognize the warning signs of fatigue and avoid driving while drowsy, particularly as we make the adjustment to Daylight Saving Time.”
Acting Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Maintaining a proper sleep schedule is important for personal health as well as the health and safety of those around you. Lack of sleep can result in drowsy driving, which can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I urge all New Yorkers to get enough sleep, so they can avoid jeopardizing themselves and others on the road.”
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, “Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as speeding, distracted driving, or driving while impaired. Yet few people recognize the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while fatigued or sleep deprived. Drowsy driving causes needless injuries and deaths each year. The New York State Police urges all motorists to recognize the symptoms of fatigue and make responsible decisions before operating their vehicles.”
Driver safety tips and information are available by visiting the DMV's website at dmv.ny.gov or the GTSC website at safeny.ny.gov/
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