With the clocks turned back this weekend, AAA Kansas is reminding drivers to be prepared for potential challenges, such as changes in sleep patterns, that may increase chances of drowsy driving.
“Shorter days starting next week means many of us will be driving home from work in the dark,” said a AAA Kansas spokesman. “The risk of drowsy driving also increases with the time change, so drivers should begin taking proper precautions now to ensure they get adequate rest.”
Sleep-deprived drivers cause more than 6,400 deaths and 50,000 debilitating injuries on American roadways each year. Kansas Department of Transportation data from 2017 reveals that drivers being fatigued or falling asleep was cited as a contributing factor in 1,045 traffic crashes in the state. Symptoms of drowsy driving can include having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes or not remembering the last few miles driven. However, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.
Drivers should not rely solely on their bodies to provide warning signs of fatigue and should instead prioritize getting plenty of sleep in their daily schedules and simply be aware that the shorter days this time of year can create more drowsiness behind the wheel.
Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report on sleep deprivation and motor vehicle crashes shows that drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash. With drowsy driving involved in more than one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year, getting less than seven
hours of sleep may have deadly consequences.
In addition, data from the 2016 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Culture Index study, shows that “nearly all motorists (95.9%) view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior; yet, approximately 3 in 10 (28.9%) admit to driving when they were so tired that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open at some point in the past month.”
Although the risks of driving while drowsy are well documented, that still does stop drivers from practicing this dangerous behavior. With traffic death rates three times greater at night than during the day, drivers can prevent these tragedies by being proactive with getting adequate rest and being mindful of other traveling drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Rest Up: Get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. If you do begin to feel drowsy while driving, pull over immediately and rest or call a family member or friend for assistance.
Be prepared for morning/afternoon sun glare: Sun glare in the morning or late afternoon can cause temporary blindness. To reduce the glare, AAA Kansas recommends wearing high-quality sunglasses and adjusting the car’s sun visors as needed. Use of the night setting on rearview mirrors can reduce glare from headlights approaching from the rear.
Car Care Maintenance: Keep headlights, tail lights, signal lights, and windows (inside and out) clean.
Ensure headlights are properly aimed: Misaimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce visibility.
Keep headlights on low beams when following another vehicle, so other drivers are not blinded.
Reduce your speed and increase your following distances. It is more difficult to judge other vehicles’ speeds and distances at night.
Be mindful of pedestrians and crosswalks: Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.