FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, November, 2010
MOTORISTS REMINDED OF DANGERS OF DROWSY DRIVING
Sleep Loss a Possibility After Daylight Saving Time Ends
Commissioner David J. Swarts of the Department of Motor Vehicles and Chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) reminded motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving today following the end of Daylight Savings Time this past Sunday, November 7.
"As it gets dark earlier, motorists should be particularly alert to the warning signs of fatigue and avoid driving while drowsy," Commissioner Swarts said. "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."
At the press conference held on the Sage College campus in Albany, Dr. Siobhan Kuhar, Medical Director of the Albany Regional Sleep Disorders Center, said: "The best remedy for avoiding a sleep-related car accident is adequate sleep. Most adults perform best after seven to nine hours of good quality sleep, but unfortunately many people do not make sleep their priority. Instead, sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice to squeeze a couple more hours into our busy lives."
"We at The Sage Colleges are honored to partner with the Governor's Office Traffic Safety Committee to help increase awareness about the hazards of drowsy driving," said Dr. Susan Scrimshaw, president of The Sage Colleges. "Students maintain active and busy lifestyles trying to balance school, activities, their studies, a social life - and often a job. We encourage our students to develop a healthy lifestyle which includes eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. Drowsy driving is a serious threat to all of us that can be avoided simply by getting enough sleep - often a particular challenge for all college students. We feel it is imperative to encourage students to listen to their bodies and to schedule enough time for adequate sleep into their busy lives."
A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that drowsy driving is a more pervasive problem than previously estimated. According to the AAA study, drowsy driving is a contributing factor in one in eight fatal crashes and one in ten crashes involving injuries. These percentages significantly exceed prior estimates, suggesting that drowsy driving is underreported as a factor in motor vehicle crashes. In New York State in 2009, the most-recent year for which statistics are available, there were more than 1,000 motor vehicle crashes in which fatigue/drowsiness was listed as a contributing factor and more than 3,000 that involved a driver falling asleep at the wheel.
In the National Sleep Foundation's 2009 "Sleep in America" poll, nearly a third of respondents admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel within the past year, and more than half admitted to driving while drowsy. Drivers at risk for crashes due to drowsy driving include: commercial truck drivers; late-night shift workers; parents caring for 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.
Sleepiness can slow a driver's reaction time, increasing the odds of a crash. It can also impair vision and judgment and delay the processing of information. Studies indicate that being awake for 20 hours can impair a driver to the same degree as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, the legal limit in all states.
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. Motorists should get adequate sleep before driving, take breaks about every 100 miles or two hours and bring a passenger to help keep them awake and share the driving responsibilities. Never drink alcohol before driving, and always be aware of the potential side effects of any medications.
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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