BUFFALO, N.Y. — You may have noticed signs up on the NYS Thruway, the 33, and other local highways this weekend with the flashing reminder: "Stay Awake! Stay Alive!"
It's a fairly obvious message, but new research from the AAA Foundation suggests that drivers may underestimate how tired they are behind the wheel. Anyone can be at risk for drowsy driving any time, but the issue is top of mind this week, with the change to Daylight Saving Time.
"Drowsy driving first of all can be fatal. It's dangerous," AAA Communications Specialist Mark Gruba told 2 On Your Side. "We want people to be aware of its effects, aware of what they can do to try to prevent it, and stay safe behind the wheel of course."
Driving while drowsy is comparable to driving while intoxicated. Drivers can become prone to drifting lanes, as well as lose their ability to stay alert and react.
"Most of us when we're behind the wheel and we're drowsy, we don't realize just how drowsy we are," Gruba said. "The key metric in the study was if your eyes were closed for 15 seconds or more over the course of a minute at any point during the study, you're severely drowsy at that point. Yet a lot of people were experiencing that and when asked whether or not they were drowsy, they thought they were only just a little bit drowsy, when in fact they were severely drowsy and of course that's a recipe for disaster."
AAA recommends getting the proper amount of rest, traveling at times of day when you'd normally be awake, and avoiding heavy foods and medications that can cause drowsiness before driving.
For longer trips, it's a good idea to schedule frequent breaks and trade off with a passenger if possible. If you do feel your eyes closing behind the wheel, pull over to a rest stop and take a short nap.
"If you're feeling sleepy behind the wheel, you probably are drowsy," Gruba said. "Get a twenty minute nap, at least 20 minutes. Try not to make it longer than 30 minutes. Recharge the batteries, and then go ahead and get back on the road."
More information on the new research related to drowsy driving is available through AAA's website.