The New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) has warned of the dangers of drowsy driving as Daylight Saving Time bagan this past Sunday, March 12, 2023, at 2 a.m. The partnership is promoting a “Stay Awake! Stay Alive!” message before and after the time change as a reminder that drivers should be vigilant.
“Driving while drowsy can have the same effects as driving while intoxicated, including slowed reaction times, impaired judgment and vision and decreased alertness, yet many people are unaware of this danger,” said Mark J.F. Schroeder, NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC). “It is pervasive on our roadways and drowsiness is often underreported as a crash factor. All drivers need to be aware of the warning signs of drowsiness and ensure they are always rested and alert enough to drive safely before they get behind the wheel.”
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 24 hours without sleep has similar effects on driving ability as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10 percent. GHSA also estimates that drowsy driving is a contributing factor in 328,000 crashes nationwide annually, and more than half of them involve drivers 25-years-old and younger.
In New York, according to the 2022 preliminary crash statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR) at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College, “fatigue/drowsy driving” was selected as a contributing factor in 1,160 police-reported crashes, of which three were fatal crashes and 446 resulted in injuries. Also in 2022, there were 2,849 police-reported crashes where the contributing factor for “driver fell asleep” was cited. Six of these crashes involved at least one fatality and 1,067 crashes resulted in injuries.
So far this year, according to the preliminary 2023 crash figures from ITSMR, those same factors have been listed in 45 police-reported crashes for “fatigue/drowsy driving” and 110 police-reported crashes for “driver fell asleep”.
Since college students are among the most at risk for drowsy driving, the Partnership has been focusing their outreach efforts on State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) campuses with younger drivers, as well as in counties where statewide crash data reflects a higher incidence of crashes in which the driver fell asleep or drowsiness or fatigue were reported as a contributing factor.
The NYS Department of Health (DOH) will run a social media campaign from March 9 through March 31 in Nassau, Queens, and Westchester counties targeting college students ages 17 to 22. The New York State Thruway Authority and Department of Transportation (DOT) will also help raise awareness about the dangers of drowsy driving during a four-day campaign that runs Friday, March 10 through Monday, March 13. Variable message signs along the Thruway and major roadways in the three counties targeted in the social media campaign will tell motorists to “STAY AWAKE, STAY ALIVE.”
The NYPDD and NY Students Against Destructive Decisions (NY SADD) are again sponsoring a “Stay Awake! Stay Alive!” Public Service Announcement (PSA) Challenge for students at 15 SUNY and CUNY schools. Participants will create a 25-second video to raise awareness about drowsy driving, vying for cash awards of $2,500, $1,500, or $1,000, respectively, for first-, second- and third-place.
Additional details and a link to view previous winning PSAs can be found on the SADD website. Last year’s winning PSAs are also running on screens in DMV offices and New York State Thruway rest areas.
Besides college students, other groups identified as most at risk of driving while drowsy include 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; high school students; and young and newer drivers.
Effects of Driving Drowsy and Prevention
Sleepiness can slow a driver’s reaction time, impair vision and judgment, and delay the processing of information, increasing the odds of a crash. Drivers 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.
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. The safest thing to do when experiencing drowsiness while driving is to pull over and find a safe place to sleep.
For more information about the dangers of drowsy driving and strategies to avoid it, visit the GTSC’s Drowsy Driving Awareness webpage; the SUNY Stony Brook School of Health Technology & Management’s educational and interactive website, StopDrowsyDriving.org; the National Sleep Foundation’s Facts About Drowsy Driving, DOH’s website; and NHTSA’s research on drowsy driving.
“Even if drivers don’t really fall asleep while driving a vehicle, being fatigued has been found to impair judgment and result in slow reaction times,” Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “As we transition to daylight savings time, I encourage all motorists to be mindful of the warning signs of drowsiness.”
“Moving the clocks ahead for Daylight Saving Time alters our routine and sleep schedule, and that can put motorists at risk for drowsy driving,” Thruway Authority Interim Executive Director Frank Hoare said. “Operating a vehicle while fatigued or sleep deprived is as dangerous as driving impaired or distracted. It’s important to recognize the warning signs and make safety a priority — it could not only save your life, but the lives of others.”
DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “After a long winter, New Yorkers are eager for warmer weather and more daylight in the evening, but we must not forget that the transition to Daylight Saving Time can be disruptive to our sleep cycle. If you sense that you are feeling drowsy while driving, do the right thing and pull over. You will not just save your life, but the lives of others.”
New York State Police (NYSP) Acting Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli said, “A drowsy driver on the road can be every bit as dangerous as a driver who is speeding, distracted or impaired. As daylight savings begins, it is important to become familiar with the signs of fatigue and what steps to take if you do feel fatigued behind the wheel. Alert and attentive driving is key to avoiding crashes. The New York State Police asks all motorists to make responsible decisions before operating their vehicles.”
Lisa Endee, Clinical Associate Professor at Stony Brook University, said, “Optimal sleep is critical to overall health and safety. The change in schedule and loss of sleep that occurs with Daylight Savings Time is associated with increased daytime sleepiness and risk of motor vehicle crashes due to drowsy driving. Once a driver is drowsy, the danger of falling asleep at the wheel is imminent, and as a result, crashes that occur due to drowsiness are often serious and fatal. The “Stay Awake, Stay Alive” campaign aims to raise awareness about this important danger, adding DROWSY as the fourth ‘D’ in the dangerous driving behaviors along with being drunk, drugged, and distracted.”
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 GTSC, DOH, Thruway Authority, DOT, NYSP, the NYS Association of Chiefs of Police, the Trucking Association of New York, AAA Hudson Valley, the NYS Association of Traffic Safety Boards, NYS Sheriffs’ Association, NYS SADD and SUNY Stony Brook.