FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, March 11, 2010
MOTORISTS REMINDED OF DANGERS OF DROWSY DRIVING
Sleep Loss a Possibility as Daylight Saving Time Begins on March 14
Commissioner David J. Swarts of the Department of Motor Vehicles and Chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) today used the occasion of the upcoming switch to Daylight Saving Time to remind motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving. Daylight Saving Time goes into effect this year on Sunday, March 14.
"Driving while drowsy is a contributing factor in thousands of crashes each year," Commissioner Swarts said. "Motorists should be aware of the warning signs of fatigue and how to avoid drowsy driving, particularly as we adjust to the loss of sleep that comes with the switch to Daylight Saving Time."
The National Sleep Foundation's 2009 "Sleep in America" poll shows that one percent, or as many as 1.9 million drivers, have had a car crash or a near miss due to drowsiness in the past year. Even more alarming, 54 percent of drivers (105 million) have driven while drowsy at least once in the past year, and 28 percent (54 million) do so at least once per month. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that each year 100,000 crashes reported to police are caused by drowsy driving or driver fatigue, resulting in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
Drivers at highest risk for crashes due to drowsy driving include: commercial truck drivers; late-night shift workers; parents taking care 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. Studies show that 36 percent of teens drive drowsy on a regular basis and, out of all of the crashes caused by fatigue, a full 55 percent involve drivers under the age of 25.
Falling asleep at the wheel is the most obvious example, but the effects of drowsy driving can be as simple as not paying attention while driving due to fatigue or sleep deprivation. The 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.
To avoid drowsiness while driving, motorists should get adequate sleep before they drive and take breaks about every 100 miles or two hours on long trips. On long trips, drivers should also bring a passenger to help keep them awake and share the driving responsibilities. Motorists should never drink alcohol before driving, and drivers should always be aware of the potential side effects of any medications they might be taking, as some cause drowsiness.
Opening a window, turning on air conditioning or playing loud music should not be relied upon to overcome fatigue, and caffeine offers only a short-term increase in driver alertness. Drivers who experience drowsiness should pull over to find a safe place for a rest or to sleep for the night.
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