Governor's Traffic Safety Committee


Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Joe Morrissey
Casey McNulty

Multi-Agency Partnership Promotes Safe Driving Ahead of Daylight Saving Time, Which Begins Sunday, March 13

Several New York State agencies and their partners today reminded motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving ahead of Daylight Saving Time. The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Transportation (DOT), Thruway Authority, Department of Health (DOH), and others are raising awareness of the potential effect of the time change on their sleep schedules and routines, reminding drivers that sleepiness can slow reaction time, impair vision and judgment, and delay the processing of information, increasing the odds of crashes, injuries, and even deaths on New York State roadways. 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 Sleep Awareness Week, designated by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) to be March 6 to 12 this year.

"Every year, drowsiness and falling asleep at the wheel are reported as contributing factors in thousands of crashes on our highways, resulting in tragedies that could have been avoided," said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting GTSC Chair Terri Egan. "These contributing factors are under-reported, so this problem is more pervasive than indicated by the statistics. The good news is, many of these crashes are preventable. We are thankful to our partners for helping us raise awareness of the risks posed by drowsy driving, and helping us prevent injuries and deaths on our roadways."

Police-reported crash data underestimates the scope of the problem because the involvement of drowsiness or fatigue is difficult for police to detect. Still, data compiled by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research for DMV indicates that in 2014, the contributing factor of "fell asleep" was issued by police in more than 3,100 crashes statewide, while "fatigued/drowsy driving" was reported in more than 1,300 police-reported crashes. Groups at an increased risk for drowsy driving include shift workers, commercial drivers, high school and college students, new parents, business travelers, young male drivers, and people with untreated sleep disorders.

"Keeping the Thruway safe for motorists is one of our top priorities," said Maria Lehman, P.E., Thruway Authority Interim Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer. "More than 200 of the accidents that occurred on the Thruway last year were a direct result of drowsy driving and were 100 percent avoidable. The Thruway Authority is constantly evaluating ways to improve safety on the roadway, but as a mother, a grandmother and a fellow driver, I urge motorists to do their part; make good choices and stay off the road when feeling tired or fatigued."

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll said, "Rumble strips, which are installed on thousands of miles of New York State's roadways, have proven to be an effective deterrent to drowsy driving, but we can't solely engineer our way to safer roads. We look forward to continuing our work with the Partnership Against Drowsy Driving to help educate motorists on the dangers of drowsy driving and the simple steps they can take to stay awake and stay alive."

It's important to note that opening the window, turning on the air conditioning, or playing loud music are not effective in keeping drivers alert for any extended period of time. Commercial drivers should not exceed their hours of service driving and take their required rest breaks. If motorists feel drowsy behind the wheel, they have a number of better options than to take a risk and keep driving. They can:

Nationally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that at least 100,000 crashes each year are the result of drowsy driving, resulting in more than 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

"Driving when you're drowsy is a serious threat to the public's health and safety but it's one that can be easily remedied," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. "I urge all drivers to be aware of their fatigue and to get off the road until they're better rested or have another driver."

"Our Level I Trauma Center treats people who have been involved in motor vehicle accidents from across the Finger Lakes region and, sadly, drowsy driving is often a major culprit in these injuries. We wholeheartedly support the New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving in their efforts to increase community awareness and educate the public about this very important issue, and the ways in which we can prevent these tragedies," said Michael Kamali, M.D., Chair of University of Rochester Medical Center's Department of Emergency Medicine. The medical center hosted a March 9 press conference featuring speakers from New York State agencies to raise awareness of the impact of drowsy driving.

The New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving (NYPDD) educates the public and high-risk groups about the dangers of fatigued and drowsy driving, and promotes preventive strategies, especially around Drowsy Driving Prevention (November) and Sleep Awareness (March) weeks, which precede the daylight saving time changes. NYPDD members include representatives from GTSC, DMV, Thruway Authority, DOT, DOH, New York State Police, NYS Sheriffs' Association, AAA Hudson Valley, New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT), NYS Association of Chiefs of Police (NYSACOP), NYS Association of Traffic Safety Boards, and the NYS Motor Truck Association.

For more information about the dangers of drowsy driving and strategies to avoid it, visit the GTSC's Drowsy Driving and Fatigue webpage. To view and share GTSC's public service announcement about drowsy driving, "Wake Up," click here. Additional driver safety tips and information are available by visiting the DMV's website and the GTSC website.