This year, Daylight Saving Time (DST) starts on Sunday, March 14 at 2:00 a.m. Clocks and watches have to be moved ahead an hour, and the sun will rise and set approximately one hour later. Some refer to this as spring forward, but no matter what it is called, the week or so afterwards can be dangerous for drivers and other road users.
Why is Spring Forward Dangerous?
DST changes sleep patterns, and this is an adjustment that takes time to get used to. People can end up getting less sleep in the days after the time change, which can lead to drowsy driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that 50,000 injuries and close to 800 fatalities occur during the week following DST.
A 10-year study in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics reported that there is a spike in fatal car accidents during the six days following the March time change. Researchers pointed out that sleep deprivation compounded by the shifting ambient light increases the risk of a fatal car accident. They determined that just one hour less of sleep contributed to a 46 percent increase in drowsy driving crashes.
Is Drowsy Driving the Same as Impaired Driving?
According to the National Safety Council (NSC) and the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), drowsy driving has the same effects as impaired driving. Their survey of U.S. adult drivers shows that approximately 20 percent have fallen asleep behind the wheel and about 50 percent have gotten behind the wheel when they felt drowsy.
Fatigued driving is prevalent in the United States; however, some motorists do not fully understand the dangers of drowsy driving. The symptoms of fatigued driving can be compared to drunk driving. Going without sleep for more than 20 hours is the same as driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. In most states, this is the legal limit. When a driver is fatigued or under the influence, their hazard awareness, ability to sustain attention, and reaction time are drastically reduced.
How can I Tell if I am Fatigued?
Drivers might not realize how fatigued they are. Other motorists might experience micro-sleep, which are short periods of inattention that can last about four to five seconds. This is all the time that is needed for a vehicle to travel 100 yards or the length of a football field. Signs of fatigued driving include drifting in and out of lanes, missing exists, and not remembering the past few miles driven. Repeatedly running off the road and frequent yawning and blinking are also signs of drowsiness behind the wheel. Certain medications can create feelings of drowsiness too.
Although drowsy driving can happen to anyone, certain populations may be more susceptible. Shift workers who work long hours or at night and commercial truck drivers fall into this category. Motorists who have undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders are also more likely to drive while fatigued.
What Safety Tips Should I Follow for Spring Forward Driving?
It is important to get eight hours of sleep every night and going to bed an hour earlier for about three nights before the time change can lessen sleep deprivation. If there is an option to work from home for a few days after spring forward, this could also go a long way towards preventing accidents. Those who must drive can focus on driving a bit slower than usual, especially when commuting to and from work.
Driving while distracted is never recommended and can cause an accident. Cellphones and other electronic devices should be put on Do Not Disturb mode or be stored away, and motorists should not be eating food or drinking when driving. With more evening daylight, there will also be more bicyclists and pedestrians outside, and they have the right-of-way. They are out in the open and more vulnerable to getting hurt than drivers who are inside vehicles.
Leaving early for work or to drive children to school when the sun is coming up means that that the light can get into one’s eyes and make it difficult to see. Sun glare can be very strong during this time of year, so it is essential to have a pair of sunglasses and to use the visors in the car. It is also important to slow down if the sun makes it difficult to see the road.
How can I Avoid Drowsy Driving on Long Trips?
The key is to prepare ahead of time. The route should be planned out in advance because getting lost while tired can be dangerous. If the drive is especially long, it makes sense to stay overnight at a hotel. Getting eight hours of sleep the night before is very important. Motorists should also avoid driving for longer than eight to 10 hours a day and should avoid nighttime travel.
If a passenger can share the driving, this can really help prevent driver fatigue. Otherwise, a driver can take a break at least every two hours. Pulling into a safe location and grabbing a 15 to 20 minute nap can also be energizing. Additionally, never consume alcohol before driving.
Motorists are three times more likely to end up in auto accidents when they are fatigued. It can be hard to prove that a crash was caused by drowsy driving, but a lawyer can help. Evidence like eyewitness testimony, traffic camera footage, medical records, and photographs from the accident scene could show that a driver was fatigued. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to use the evidence to protect their client.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Advocate for Victims Injured in Drowsy Driving Accidents
If you were injured in a drowsy driving accident, a skilled Philadelphia car accident lawyer at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can help. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-8488 or complete our online form. With offices located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, and we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.