While many were glad to get an extra hour of sleep due to the end of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, AAA is cautioning that commuters need to be wary of drowsy driving due to the clock shift.
Between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. during the evening commute, when the sky turns to twilight, crashes spike by 45 percent in the region, according to AAA, citing the end of Daylight Saving Time.
“Even though we feel we’re getting an extra hour of sleep, time changes do affect our internal body clocks,” AAA Northeast spokesperson Fran Mayko said. “So it’s important drivers prepare and make lifestyle adjustments. With time changes comes greater risks. Driving in the dark poses many more hazards so drivers need to be especially attentive on the way home from work.”
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 21 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes involve driver fatigue. One-third of crashes involving a drowsy driver also result in injuries. Drowsy driving also is involved in 6 percent of crashes that involve a vehicle being towed; 7 percent of crashes that result in a person that required medical treatment; and 13 percent of crashes in which a person was hospitalized.
“Drowsy driving is a bigger traffic safety issue than federal estimates show,” David Yang, the executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety stated. “Drivers who don’t get enough sleep are putting everyone on the road at risk. By conducting an in-depth analysis using video of everyday drivers, we can now better assess if a driver was fatigued in the moments leading up to a crash.”
The AAA Foundation projects that drowsy driving plays a role in an average of 328,000 crashes annually. This total includes 109,000 crashes that result in injuries and 6,400 fatal crashes.
“The actual impact of drowsy driving may be even higher than the statistics show. It is difficult to know how drowsy someone was prior to an accident. Unlike drunk driving, there is no breathalyzer test for drowsiness. So unless a driver admits falling asleep, drowsy driving often goes unreported.”
William Van Tassel, the manager of Driver Training for AAA added, “don’t be fooled, the only antidote for drowsiness is sleep. Short term tactics like drinking coffee, singing, rolling down the window will not work. Your body’s need for sleep will eventually override your brain’s attempts to stay awake.”
AAA recommends that drivers:
- Travel at times of the day when they are normally awake;
- Avoid heavy foods;
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment.
- Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles;
- Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving;
- Do not underestimate the power of a quick nap. Pulling into a rest stop and taking a quick catnap — at least 20 minutes and no more than 30 minutes of sleep– can help to keep you alert on the road.
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