State officials remind motorists dangers of drowsy driving as Daylight Saving Time ends
CAPITAL REGION, N.Y.— With Daylight Saving Time coming to an end, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) are urging motorists to be aware of the dangers of drowsy driving.Daylight Saving Time ended at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 4. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) uses the occasion to begin its Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, November 4 to 11.“Drowsiness and fatigue are contributing factors in thousands of crashes every year on our highways and cause far too many preventable deaths and injuries,” said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting GTSC Chair Terri Egan in a news release. “We urge all motorists to be aware of the warning signs of drowsiness, particularly as we adjust to standard time, and take the appropriate steps to ensure that they never drive while drowsy.”In 2017, according to statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR), “fatigue/drowsy driving” and/or “driver fell asleep” were listed 5,004 times as contributing factors on police crash reports statewide. So far in 2018, according to preliminary figures from ITSMR, those same factors have been listed 3,091 times on police crash reports statewide.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 and 71,000 injuries.To increase awareness of this issue, the New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) is promoting a “Stay Awake, Stay Alive” message during Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas said in the release, “Protecting the public’s safety is always the top priority of the Department of Transportation and we urge all motorists to be aware of the warning signs of drowsy driving and pull over if they do not feel alert enough to drive safely. Staying awake and alert behind the wheel is critical to ensuring the safety of all motorists and avoiding tragedies on New York’s roadways.”Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said in the release, “The time change and adjustment to our sleep schedule can impact driving. Fatigued motorists can fall asleep behind the wheel for a few seconds and not even realize it, which endangers the lives of everyone on the road. We urge motorists to pay attention to warning signs and make good decisions to keep themselves, other motorists and workers on our roadway, safe.”“Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, even though so many of us neglect it in this fast-paced world,” added New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker. “As we set our clocks back this week for Standard Time, please take extra care to be sure you are feeling alert and well rested, before getting behind the wheel of a car.”The NYPDD also recently partnered with the State University of New York at Stony Brook to address the high number of drowsy driving related crashes in Suffolk County. With funding from GTSC and the National Road Safety Foundation, 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 has also been conducting “train-the-trainer” sessions to teach educators at other local colleges how to discuss the risks of drowsy driving with their students.Officials said anyone can be at risk for drowsy driving, but some groups have been identified as most vulnerable. In addition to college students, those groups include: commercial drivers, including 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; high school students; and young and newer drivers.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.Officials said sleepiness can slow a driver’s reaction time, increasing the odds of a crash, as well as impair vision and judgment and delay the processing of information. 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 responsibilities. Do not drink alcohol before driving, and always be aware of the potential side effects of any medications.Officials said the 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.