When the time changes and you “spring forward” one hour, all the clocks in your life have to be reset, including your biological clock. Some police departments report as much as a 10 percent increase in vehicle crashes when Daylight Saving Time takes effect. The problem is that just a one-hour change in time can affect your sleep cycle and make you a drowsy driver.
As dangerous as drinking
Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drinking and driving; fatigued drivers cause more than 100,000 crashes annually. In 1975, the U.S. Department of Transportation began analyzing the causes behind fatalities. Contributing to the total are speeding, alcohol and a lack of safety belt use. The dangers of texting and using a cell phone get a lot of publicity these days, but drowsy driving does not, even though it is responsible for 71,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Sleep deprivation is a problem
Research undertaken by AAA indicates that drivers who get six to seven hours of sleep a night are twice as likely to be involved in a car accident as someone who has slept for eight hours or more. Even more disturbing, people who have slept less than five hours increase their risk four to five times. AAA reports that 250,000 people fall asleep at the wheel each year. It is believed that the brain may try to compensate for fatigue by taking what is termed a “micro-sleep” for a few seconds. This is enough time for you to swerve out of your lane and into oncoming traffic or veer off the road and run into a tree.
Preparing for the time change
Drivers can prepare by increasing their hours of sleep several days ahead of the Daylight Savings event and by getting at least eight hours of sleep on the Sunday night when the change takes place. In other words, being well rested will go a long way toward preventing an accident. AAA points out that in addition to the increased risk of drowsy driving, the change to Daylight Saving Time adds an extra hour of daylight, which means that more motorists will be on the road in the late afternoon. The advice from the nationwide automobile club is to slow down, be alert and pay attention to what is going on around you.
Someone is in your corner
Drivers who are most at risk for accident and injury are teenagers, older adults and people who are sleep-deprived. Of course, you may do all you can to be well rested, especially around the change to Daylight Saving Time, but you always have to look out for other motorists and passengers. Remember that if you are involved in a vehicle crash, you can turn to a personal injury attorney with wide experience in cases involving motor vehicle accidents for legal advice and support.