Governor's Traffic Safety Committee and Department of Health Holding Drowsy Driving Events and Video PSA Contest for College Students to Raise Awareness
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today reminded motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving as daylight saving time begins with clocks being set forward on Sunday, March 10, 2019, at 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. To raise awareness, the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee and Department of Health will be holding "Stay Awake! Stay Alive!" events at various SUNY campuses, and the National Road Safety Foundation has sponsored a "Stay Awake! Stay Alive!" video public service announcement contest for students at these campuses as well.
"Drowsy or fatigued driving can pose a serious risk to everyone on the road," Governor Cuomo said. "As New Yorkers change their clocks on Sunday, I encourage all drivers do their part by getting enough sleep before getting in the car as just a few seconds of inattention can lead to tragic results."
The "Stay Awake! Stay Alive!" events, which serve to help raise awareness among young people, who are most likely to drive drowsy, are being held at the SUNY campuses of Stony Brook, Albany, and Buffalo. These events include representatives from the National Road Safety Foundation, sleep experts from SUNY Stony Brook, and Jennifer Pearce, a victim advocate who lost her sister in a 2008 drowsy driving related crash.
The PSA contest held at the same three campuses is focused on raising awareness of the unique dangers of driving while drowsy and encouraging people to make safe choices on the road. The first-place winner will receive a $1,500 cash prize and their video will be professionally re-produced for broadcast quality on "Teen Kids News." "Teen Kids News" is a nationally syndicated program reaching150 television stations and is available online. The second-place winner will receive a $750 cash prize and third-place winner will receive a $500 cash prize.
When drowsy or fatigued, reaction time slows, judgment is impaired, and the risk of a crash increases. According to statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR), "fatigue/drowsy driving" or "driver fell asleep" were factors in 2,337 fatal and personal injury police-reported crashes statewide in 2017. Preliminary figures from ITSMR for those same factors show 2,273 fatal and personal injury police-reported crashes statewide in 2018, a decline of over 2 percent.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), some people are more vulnerable to drowsy driving than others, such as young people, shift workers, commercial drivers, people with undiagnosed or untreated disorders, and business travelers. NSF data says young people ages 18-29 have the highest likelihood to drive while drowsy at 71 percent, ages 30-64 at 52 percent, and age 65 and older at 19 percent.
"Drowsy or fatigued driving is a risky driving behavior that puts you, your passengers, and all those sharing the road in danger," said Mark J.F. Schroeder, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Acting GTSC Chair. "All motorists should learn to recognize the signs of drowsy driving and take appropriate action, like pulling over to a safe rest area or letting someone else drive."
National Road Safety Foundation Director of Operations, Michelle Anderson, said, "We're living in a fast-paced world, and we're all very busy. The truth is, car crashes do not discriminate by age or lifestyle. We hope that this contest helps build a greater awareness of the dangers of drowsy driving and many lives will be saved from this preventable issue on our roads."
Thruway Authority Executive Director, Matthew J. Driscoll, said, "Drowsy driving is impaired driving. It can affect anyone and puts the lives of everyone on the road at risk. As we adjust our sleep schedule for Daylight Saving Time, motorists should be aware of the symptoms of drowsy driving and make responsible decisions before they get behind the wheel."
New York State Police Acting Superintendent, Keith M. Corlett, said, "A drowsy driver can be every bit as dangerous as a driver who is speeding, distracted, or driving while impaired. Unfortunately and too often with tragic results, few people recognize the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while fatigued or sleep deprived. Motorists can do their part to prevent needless tragedies and keep our roadways safer by recognizing the symptoms of fatigue, and refraining from operating a motor vehicle while drowsy."
New York State Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said, "Staying awake and alert while driving is critical to protecting public health and safety. If you find yourself struggling with drowsiness, hand the wheel over to another driver or pull over and take a break until you feel more rested. These simple actions can save lives, including your own."
The State Department of Transportation (DOT) will also take part in an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of drowsy driving. During a 4-day campaign that begins today, Friday, March 8, DOT's variable message signs along major roadways will tell motorists to "STAY AWAKE, STAY ALIVE."
Motorists who feel drowsy should pull over into a well-lit area and take a 20-minute nap or let someone else drive. Here are common signs of drowsiness:
- 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
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.
It is important to note that opening the windows, turning up the radio, or turning on the air conditioner will not help you stay awake while driving.