Daylight Saving Time Changes Increase Chances of Driver Fatigue and Drowsiness
Statewide Partnership Will Promote “Stay Awake, Stay Alive” Message
During Drowsy Driving Prevention Week
ALBANY, NY — The New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) today reminded motorists to be aware of the dangers of drowsy driving as the end of Daylight Saving Time approaches. Despite the additional hour gained in the time change, it can disrupt sleep patterns, causing people to feel drowsy.
Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 7. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) uses the occasion to begin its Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, November 7 to 13.
“The risk posed by driving drowsy or fatigued is known, yet each year police report ‘fatigue/drowsy driving’ and/or ‘driver fell asleep’ as contributing factors in thousands of crashes statewide, resulting in deaths and injuries that are preventable,” said NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) Mark J.F. Schroeder. “We urge all motorists to be aware of the warning signs of drowsy driving and pull over safely if they do not feel alert enough to drive. Staying awake and alert behind the wheel helps ensure the safety of all motorists and helps avoid needless tragedies on New York’s roadways.”
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, ” Driving while drowsy is a dangerous choice that can result in permanent injury or death. I encourage New Yorkers to be mindful of the signs that you may be tired and listen to the internal body signals telling you to pull over safely. When we protect ourselves on the road, we protect everyone.”
Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, “Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When you get behind the wheel fatigued, you are putting your life and the lives of others at risk. It’s important for motorists to recognize the warning signs of drowsy driving and make safe decisions if they’re feeling tired. By doing so, you can help save lives.”
State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “It’s that time of year again when we roll back our clocks and it gets darker outside, earlier. For many, the effect of this change can disrupt our routines and result in sleep deprivation. There is simply no substitute for good sleep, especially before taking a long trip. Lack of sleep can impact everything from driver awareness to split second reaction times on the roads. As the clocks change, I encourage motorists to take proper precautions to avoid drowsy driving. Be responsible, stay alert and please drive safely.”
New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as speeding, distracted driving, or driving while impaired. Drowsy driving causes thousands of injuries and deaths each year. Please recognize the symptoms of fatigue and make responsible decisions before operating a vehicle. That decision is key to avoiding crashes and keeping our highways safe.”
In 2020, 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 3,959 times as contributing factors on police crash reports in New York State. So far in 2021, according to preliminary figures from ITSMR, those same factors have been listed 2,992 times on police crash reports from across the state. In 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were nearly 700 fatalities from drowsy-driving-related crashes in the U.S. NHTSA also estimated that, in 2017, drowsy driving contributed to 91,000 police-reported crashes and nearly 800 deaths nationwide.
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 from November 5 through November 8 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.
For the past three years, NYPDD has been engaging college campuses statewide in drowsy driving injury prevention programs, which include awareness, education and outreach focused on the importance of sleep. This past spring, NYS Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) partnered with the NYPDD to sponsor a “Stay Awake! Stay Alive! Public Service Announcement (PSA) Challenge” for students at nine SUNY campuses to raise awareness of the unique dangers of driving while drowsy. The three winning PSAs were aired on social media and at DMV offices throughout the state, and the students who produced those videos won cash awards. The winners and honorable mentions can be viewed on YouTube. The winning PSAs from 2019 and 2020 can be viewed on the National Road Safety Foundation website. NYS SADD and NYPDD and will sponsor another PSA challenge for students at 12 SUNY campuses in the spring of 2022. 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.