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Driving Drowsy Can Be As Bad As Driving Drunk, Study Says

New York State is reminding thruway drivers to "Stay Awake, Stay Alive."
New York State is reminding thruway drivers to "Stay Awake, Stay Alive." Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

New York State officials are reminding drivers that being behind the wheel while drowsy can be just as hazardous as driving while intoxicated as part of the "Stay Awake, Stay Alive" campaign.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia showed that being awake for 18 hours produced an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours. In comparison, .08 is considered legally drunk.

“Studies have shown that drowsy driving is dangerous and can have tragic consequences,” DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting GTSC Chair Terri Egan said in a statement. “Being fatigued can slow reaction time, impair vision and judgment, and delay the processing of information. This, in turn, can increase the odds of crashes, injuries and fatalities on our roadways. As the clocks change and the weather gets nicer, I urge motorists to stay awake and stay alive.”

Signs featuring the "Stay Awake, Stay Alive" message will be displayed throughout the New York State Thruway as well as other major highways.

In 2015, according to statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR), “fatigue/drowsy driving” or “driver fell asleep” were factors in 4,330 police-reported crashes statewide. Preliminary figures for 2016 show those same factors contributed to 4,552 police-reported crashes .

Motorists should always be aware of the warning signs of drowsy driving. They include:

  • Drifting from lane to lane
  • Repeated yawning
  • Dfficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open
  • Can’t remember the last few miles driven or how you got to a particular location
  • Missing traffic signals
  • Tailgating
  • Driving on rumble strips or the shoulder of the road.

Common strategies to fight drowsiness, such as opening the window, turning on the air conditioning or playing loud music, are not effective in keeping drivers alert for an extended period of time.

If you sense you are dozing at the wheel, pull over as soon as possible and rest for at least 15-20 minutes.

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