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Motorists reminded of dangers of drowsy driving

by jmaloni
Fri, Nov 2nd 2012 05:50 pm

Fatigue a possibility as daylight saving time ends on november 4

Barbara J. Fiala, commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, on Friday used the occasion of the upcoming end of daylight saving time to remind motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving. Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4.

"Every year, New Yorkers are injured and killed in crashes caused by drowsy drivers," Fiala said. "These tragedies are preventable. Motorists need to be aware of the warning signs of fatigue and avoid driving while drowsy, particularly as we make the adjustment to standard time."

In 2011, there were 1,290 crashes statewide in which fatigue/drowsiness was cited as a contributing factor. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 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, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses annually.

In annual polls conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, half of Americans consistently report that they have driven drowsy and about 20 percent admit that they have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the previous year. The NSF is declaring Nov. 12 to 18 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

Drivers at highest risk for crashes due to drowsy driving include commercial truck drivers, late-night shift workers, parents of young children, people with untreated sleep disorders and young drivers. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of young people ages 16-24, and fatigue is a common contributing factor. In a past NSF poll of teen drivers, more than half (51 percent) admitted to having driven drowsy in the past year and 15 percent to at least once per week.

While falling asleep at the wheel is the most obvious example, drowsy driving can be as simple as not paying attention while driving. Warning signs of drowsy driving include difficulty in keeping one's eyes open, repeated yawning, wandering or disconnected thoughts, drifting from the driving lane and failure to remember the last few miles driven.

Motorists should always get adequate sleep before driving and take breaks every two hours or 100 miles. Bringing a passenger on long trips to provide company and share driving responsibilities is also recommended. Motorists should never drink alcohol before driving, and drivers should always be aware of the potential for drowsiness and other side effects of any medications they might be taking.

The common strategies for avoiding drowsy driving, such as opening a window, turning on air conditioning or playing loud music, will not overcome fatigue, and caffeine offers only a short-term increase in driver alertness. The only effective countermeasure for drowsiness is to find a safe place to pull over for a rest or to sleep for the night.

Driver safety tips and information are available by visiting the DMV's website at dmv.ny.gov or the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee website at safeny.ny.gov.

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