HAMILTON – This weekend we spring the clocks forward (Daylight Saving Time officially begins at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 10), losing an hour of our day in exchange for extended daylight hours we enjoy throughout the summer. However, come Monday morning, many drivers may have lost a spring in their step and not be fully alert as they travel to work and school in the dark.
“You might think just one hour of lost sleep isn’t much, but many people already are sleep-deprived during the week, and the time change compounds the problem,” said Tracy Noble, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “AAA recommends motorists prepare in advance for the time change by increasing their sleep time in the days ahead and getting a good night’s rest on Sunday.”
According to a newly released poll by the National Sleep Foundation, nearly one-third (32%) of all respondents say they drive drowsy at least once a month. It’s dangerous behavior. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving results in an average about 30,000 crashes and 1,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
The risk is highest for young drivers; they are more likely to drive while drowsy according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. One in seven licensed drivers ages 16-24 admitted to having nodded off at least once while driving in the past year as compared to one in ten of all licensed drivers who confessed to falling asleep during the same period. AAA has a wide range of tools available at AAA.com/teendriving to help teens and their parents understand this often overlooked crash risk.
An AAA Foundation study also found the impact of having drowsy drivers on the road is considerable. Drowsy drivers are involved in an estimated 12.5% of fatal crashes, as most drivers drift out of their lanes or off the road, as demonstrated in this AAA Foundation Drowsy Driving Video. Drivers themselves are often crash victims who die in single-car crashes.
“Just like alcohol and drugs, sleepiness decreases awareness, slows reaction time, and impairs judgment, with the same deadly consequences,” added Noble. “If you’ve been awake for 18 hours, your impairment is similar to someone who has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 percent – and being awake 24 hours is like having a BAC of .10, higher than the legal limit in all states.”
In addition, lower levels of alcohol (below the legal limit) amplify the effects of inadequate sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Signs of Drowsy Driving
- You find yourself drifting out of your lane or hitting rumble strips.
- You can’t keep eyes open and focused.
- You have wandering, disconnected thoughts.
- You miss signs or drive past exit.
- You feel irritable and restless.
AAA Tips for Drivers
- Before you hit the road, make sure you get adequate sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults get 7-9 hours of sleep to maintain proper alertness during the day.
- Slow down.
- Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible during dawn and dusk hours.
- Keep vehicle headlights and windows (inside and out) clean.
- Watch the high beams. Do not use high beams when other cars or pedestrians are around.
- Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. Do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
- Remember that your stopping distance is increased in rainy or snowy weather.
- Watch out for pedestrians when backing up in parking lots or driveways.
AAA Tips for Students & Pedestrians
- Cross at the corner – not in the middle of the street or between parked cars. Cross only at intersections. Do not jaywalk.
- Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
- Evaluate the distance and speed of oncoming traffic before you step out into the street
- Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking near traffic at night. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
- Allow extra time and distance for a vehicle to stop in inclement weather.
- Do not let umbrellas or jacket hoods block your view of approaching traffic.