Recently, we turned our clocks back an hour in observance of the end of Daylight Saving Time. According to a research study titled, “Daylight Saving Time Transitions and Road Traffic Accidents,” transitioning into and out of DST can lead to sleep disruption, drowsiness, and considerable stress to the body. Since alertness while driving may be decreased when DST ends, drivers should take extra precautions to avoid traffic accidents.
Earlier studies have shown that the difference of only one hour of sleep can increase fatigue enough to lead to traffic accidents. In fact, some studies have suggested that the loss of one hour of sleep 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 Safety Administration, NHTSA, fatigued or drowsy driving causes 100,000 crashes a year, with 40,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities. An astounding 37% of drivers have admitted to falling asleep while driving and up to 60% have driven while drowsy.
In addition to an increased incidence of drowsy driving in the week following the transition to standard time, commuters must also adjust to driving in the dark on their way home from work. Driving at night is more difficult for most people; moreover, traffic deaths are three times greater at night.
The main reason that driving in the dark is so dangerous is that 90% of a driver’s ability to react depends on his or her vision. Obviously, vision is severely limited at night. In addition to vision limitations, peripheral vision, color recognition, and depth perception are also restricted.
Here are some safety tips for driving at night:
- Check your lights at least once a year to ensure proper working order.
- At night, you should be able to stop within the distance illuminated in your beam.
- Reduce your speed and increase your following distance
- If you find yourself driving at night much of the time, maintain your car on a regular basis. Breaking down on a dark, deserted road is not safe for anyone.
- Keep all of your lights cleaned properly, as this can affect the efficiency by 90%
- Lower your dashboard lights and avoid any sudden bright lights while you drive.
- Avoid smoking when your drive, as nicotine and carbon monoxide hamper night vision
- 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.
- Have your vision checked regularly. Your eyes become more sensitive to bright lights and glare as you age. See an eye doctor every three years if you are between the ages of 40-60 and every year after that.
Driving is an attention-intensive activity. After the shift back to standard time, take measures to avoid drowsy driving, such as going to sleep early to account for the loss of time in the morning. If extremely tired during your commute, stop for coffee or to rest for a while.