As Daylight Saving Time begins on March 12th at 2 a.m., the New York State Partnership Against Drowsy Driving is warning drivers of the dangers of drowsy driving. The partnership is promoting a “Stay Awake! Stay Alive!” message before and after the time change as a reminder that drivers should remain vigilant.
According to Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald, even if drivers do not fall asleep while driving a vehicle, being fatigued can impair judgment and result in slow reaction times. As a result, McDonald encourages all motorists to be mindful of the warning signs of drowsiness.
Drowsy driving is a significant problem in the United States, with the Governors Highway Safety Association estimating that it is a contributing factor in 328,000 crashes annually nationwide, with over half of them involving drivers aged 25 and younger.
In New York, preliminary crash statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College indicate that “fatigue/drowsy driving” was a contributing factor in 1,160 police-reported crashes in 2022, of which three were fatal crashes and 446 resulted in injuries.
Moreover, there were 2,849 police-reported crashes where the contributing factor for “driver fell asleep” was cited in 2022. Six of these crashes involved at least one fatality and 1,067 crashes resulted in injuries.
Those at greatest risk of driving while drowsy include college students, 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.
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.
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