Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus declared March 3rd through March 9th to be “Sleep Awareness Week” to remind Dutchess County residents about the risks involved with operating a motor vehicle while drowsy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports drowsy and fatigued drivers cause more than 100,000 crashes nationwide each year, injuring at least 40,000 people.
“All drivers are vulnerable to fatigue and drowsy driving. Our goal is to raise awareness about the risks involved with operating a motor vehicle while drowsy and to provide useful guidelines to ensure safe driving,” said County Executive Steinhaus.
In a 2005 National Sleep Foundation survey, 60% of adult drivers admitted to driving while drowsy. More than one third of these drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel, while approximately 2 million drivers admit they had car crashes because they dozed off or were too tired to drive.
According to Dutchess County Traffic Safety Administrator William Johnson, drivers who are at highest risk for drowsy driving are those who feel fatigued or sleep-deprived; drive long distances without rest breaks; drive through the night or early morning, or at other times when they are normally asleep; take medications that increase sleepiness or drink alcohol; drive alone; drive on long, rural roads; and/or are frequent travelers, such as business travelers. “These at-risk drivers are usually young people, shift workers, commercial drivers and people with undiagnosed sleep disorders,” said Mr. Johnson.
To decrease the risk of drowsy driving, the Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board encourages drivers to:
• Get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
• Plan a long trip with a companion who can drive as well as keep the driver alert.
• Schedule stops every 100 miles or two hours.
• Avoid alcohol and medications that impair driving performance.
• Consult with a physician or local sleep disorder center for diagnosis and treatment of frequent daytime sleepiness or nighttime insomnia and loud snoring every night.
“Drivers need to be able to recognize the warning signs of driving while drowsy and take the proper precautions to make sure they reach their destination safely,” said County Executive Steinhaus. Warning signs include:
• When a driver can’t remember traveling the last few miles
• Experiences wandering or disconnected thoughts
• Has difficulty focusing or keeping their eyes open
• Has trouble keeping their head up
• Drifts from their lanes or hits a “rumble” strip; yawn repeatedly
• Tailgates or misses traffic signs
• Repeatedly jerking their vehicles back into the lane.
“Don’t rely on the radio or open car window to keep you alert. You can’t predict when you will nod off. When you’re tired, stop at a safe place for a break. If possible, take a brief nap. 20-40 minutes of sleep is ideal,” concluded County Executive Steinhaus.
For more information on drowsy driving, call the Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board at (845) 486-3602 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board is a coalition of law enforcement, education, health and service agencies and individuals committed to ensuring the streets, sidewalks, and residents of Dutchess County remain safe.