Last weekend we turned our clocks back an hour, losing an hour of daylight. As daylight savings time ends and we return to daylight standard time, the highways become more dangerous as many people drive drowsy and in the dark. According to recent studies from the National Road Safety Foundation, NRSF, fatigued impairs the brain as much as alcohol does.
Although it is the difference of one hour of sleep, researchers have identified clear links between losing an hour of sleep and increases in fatigue and traffic accidents. In fact, some studies have suggested that one hour sleep loss is comparable to the same effect as three-hour jet lag. Fortunately within a week’s time, most drivers have adjusted.
According to the National Highway Traffic Association, NHTSA, fatigued or drowsy driving causes 100,000 crashes a year, with 40,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities. An astounding 37% of current drivers have admitted to falling asleep while driving and up to 60% have driven while drowsy.
In addition to drowsy driving after returning to standard time, commuters are adjusting to driving in the dark. Adjusting to these two factors is important to driving more safely.
Are you aware of the danger signs of drowsy driving? Take the NRSF’s quiz and discover if you are a drowsy driver:
· Do you have difficulty focusing, yawn or rub your eyes, blink repeatedly?
· Can’t recall the last few miles, daydream, and become irritable?
· Head snaps and nods?
· Catch yourself drifting out of your lane, hitting the rumble strips or accidently tailgating?
If you answered “yes” to any of these items, then here are some of NRSF’s safety tips:
· Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep at night; teens even more · If you notice any signs of fatigue, get off the road and take a break; drink some caffeine · Schedule breaks along your trip every 100 miles or every two hours · Avoid alcohol and sedating medications
In addition to the dangers of drowsy driving, returning to standard time it is obviously dark by 5:00 pm. Driving at night is more difficult for everyone and traffic deaths are three times greater at night.
The main reason that driving in the dark is so dangerous is that ninety percent of driver’s reaction depends on their vision. Obviously, vision is severely limited at night. In addition to vision limitations, peripheral vision, color recognition and depth perception are limited.
The National Safety Council recommends these easy steps for safe night driving:
· Keep all of your lights and windows cleaned properly · Have your headlights checked for proper positioning or aim · Avoid smoking when your drive; nicotine and carbon monoxide hamper night vision · Reduce your speed and increase your following distance · If an oncoming vehicle doesn’t lower beams from high to low, avoid glare by watching the right edge of the road and use that as a steering guide.