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7 Tips For NY Motorists to Avoid Driving While Drowsy

Published November 9, 2012 by Scott Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney

As New York motorists adjust to daylight savings time, they should be alert for the dangers of driving while drowsy.

The problem is all too real.

Half of Americans reported driving while drowsy last year, and about 20 percent admitted falling asleep at the wheel, according to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Fifteen percent said they do it regularly.

A bus driver in the Bronx who allegedly drove drowsy and crashed the bus, is facing criminal charges of negligent homicide and manslaughter for the deaths of 15 passengers.

To bring awareness to the issue, the Sleep Foundation has designated November 12-18 as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

According to a safety alert from the New York Division of Motor Vehicles:

“Every year, New Yorkers are injured and killed in crashes caused by drowsy drivers,” said [NY DMV Commissioner Barbara] Fiala. “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 (NHTSA) 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. The NHTSA estimates that the crashes cause 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses annually.

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.

Following are some safety tips:

  • Drowsy driving does not necessarily mean nodding off behind the wheel. It can simply be lapsed attention and slowed reactions.
  • Warning signs include difficulty keeping your eyes open, wandering or disconnected thoughts, drifting from your driving lane and failure to remember the last few miles driven.
  • A handy rule of thumb when driving long distance is to take breaks every two hours or 100 miles.
  • Bring along a passenger to share driving duties.
  • Drowsiness can be a side effect of prescription medication.
  • Common strategies for combating fatigue such as opening a window, turning on air conditioning or playing loud music, don’t work. Caffeine offers only a short-term fix.
  • The only sure solution is to pull over for a rest.

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