As we prepare to turn our clocks back an hour at 2 a.m. this Sunday, with the end of Daylight Saving Time, many may rejoice for the extra hour of sleep. However, AAA Kansas is reminding drivers to prepare for potential challenges, such as changes in sleep patterns that may increase chances of drowsy driving, and shorter days that mean driving home in the dark.
Sleep-deprived drivers cause more than 6,400 deaths and 50,000 debilitating injuries on American roadways each year, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).
“While many will enjoy an extra hour of sleep this weekend, few commuters and motorists realize the added dangers that can come as the result of a time change – especially when they are behind the wheel,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman. “Although we gain an hour of sleep, our sleep patterns are disrupted. This can result in unsafe drowsy driving episodes.”
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 2020 Traffic Safety Culture Index data shows that most motorists (95 percent) identify drowsy driving as very or extremely dangerous. Yet, despite high rates of perceived danger and personal/social disapproval regarding drowsy driving, about 17 percent of drivers admit to having driven while being so tired that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open, at least once in the past 30 days. Previous research by the AAA Foundation estimates that drowsy driving is a factor in an average of 328,000 crashes annually, including 109,000 crashes that result in injuries and 6,400 fatal crashes.
“The end of Daylight Saving time this weekend will bring shorter days and longer nights,” noted AAA Kansas’ Steward. “Night driving brings challenges, so we urge motorists to slow down, increase their following distance, use headlights to make yourself more visible, and be extra cautious on our roadways.”
According to AAA Foundation research:
- 95% of drivers view drowsy driving as very or extremely dangerous, but 19% admitted to driving when they were so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open at least once in the previous 30 days before the survey (Traffic Safety Culture Index).
- Drivers who have slept for less than 5 hours have a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.
- Drivers who miss one to two hours of sleep can nearly double their risk of a crash.
AAA recommends that drivers:
- Should not rely on their bodies for warning signs of drowsiness and should prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep before hitting the road.
- Travel at times of the day when they are normally awake.
- Avoid heavy foods.
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment.
But drowsiness isn’t the only factor. Dark conditions can make it harder to see while driving. With clocks moving back one hour, you will likely be driving more in the dark, making it a good time to check the illumination of your headlights.
- With 50% of crashes occurring at night, drivers should check their headlights for signs of deterioration and invest in new headlights or, at a minimum, a low-cost headlight cleaning and restoration to boost driving safety after dark. Headlights can show signs of deterioration after three years, but most commonly by year 5.
- AAA suggests drivers check their headlights for changes in appearance, such as yellowing or clouding. If the bulb is difficult to see, it is time to replace or restore the lens as soon as possible. Replacement and restoration services are available at most repair shops, including AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.
- Do-it-yourself restoration offers some savings for consumers, is relatively simple, and substantially improves light output.
- Make sure headlights are correctly re-aimed to maximize forward lighting performance and minimize glare to oncoming and preceding drivers.
It’s important to remember that children may be on their way home from school as it gets darker in the late afternoon.
AAA recommends the following:
- Slow Down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed than a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just ten mph faster.
- Stay Alert. Drivers should always avoid distractions while driving, but it’s crucial in school zones and residential neighborhoods.
- Headlights. Turn on the vehicle’s daytime running lights or headlights—even during the day—so children and other drivers can see you more easily. But don’t forget to turn them off when you reach your destination to maintain your battery life.