How Can I Drive Safely When Daylight Saving Time Comes?
Daylight saving time begins this year on March 13. The idea of losing an hour of sleep is associated with the unpopular time shift. In our chronically sleep-deprived society, people often feel general grogginess more acutely when they feel robbed of an hour of sleep. Studies of car accident statistics even suggest a link to a real danger of sleep deprivation associated with the time change in drivers each spring.
What is a responsible driver to do to counteract the potential driving dangers presented each spring by daylight saving time? This discussion explores what makes this time dangerous for drivers as well as the actions you can take to minimize the effects of the time shift on your ability to drive safely.
How Does Daylight Saving Time Make Driving More Dangerous?
To many people, daylight saving time is synonymous with lost sleep. The lost hour disappears overnight. The official clock adjustment takes place at 2:00 a.m., a time when most people are asleep, meaning that lots of people will go to bed at the same time, only to have the alarm clock sound an hour sooner than their bodies are expecting.
This affects the body’s circadian rhythm and causes fatigue that can persist for days. Although this general sleep deprivation will eventually subside, it takes time for our bodies to adjust. Even if you feel energetic at times throughout the day, a sense of grogginess can appear when the setting is dull, monotonous, and unexciting, conditions often present during a routine commute or an especially lengthy drive. Although your daily activities may keep you perked up and engaged, a drive may lull you into a state of boredom and sluggishness.
It is an unfortunate coincidence that two times that commonly affect people’s alertness are early morning and late afternoon, which also happen to be times that lots of people spend on the road. Many commuters travel in the early morning when they are just waking up and again at a time when a long day of draining work can cause an energy crash in the late afternoon.
Why Is Drowsy Driving So Dangerous?
Driving while overtired can result in reduced alertness and longer reaction times, which can make it difficult to avoid accidents. Driving while sleep deprived creates a risk of the driver falling asleep at the wheel and losing complete control of their vehicle.
The National Safety Council says that drowsy driving is involved in approximately 13 percent of all car accidents, and that lost sleep can be as impairing to a driver as drunk driving.
How Can Drivers Make a Safe Transition to Daylight Saving Time?
Prioritizing sleep is the number one way to avoid fatigue-related driving accidents. This is not an easy rule for everyone to follow, but it can make a big difference in the days following the switch to daylight saving time. When the clock change arrives, keep these tips in mind:
- Get a full night’s sleep. This means to get seven to nine hours of solid, uninterrupted rest. This should be goal for every night, including during the transition to daylight saving time.
- Go to bed earlier. Since most people’s schedules must accommodate a set wake-up time, it is important to go to bed when there is still enough time to get an adequate amount of sleep.
- Get ahead of it. Set your clock an hour head on Saturday evening so you go to bed when the clock says it is time. This can allow you to get a jump on adjusting your daily routine with an earlier dinner and pre-bed downtime, which can reset your internal clock with cues that prepare you for falling asleep without a struggle.
- Gradually move your bedtime. If you prefer to plan for a slower approach, you can go to bed 15 minutes earlier every night for four nights to adjust your body bit by bit.
What Other Ways Can Drivers Be Safer as Daylight Saving Time Takes Effect?
When it comes to avoiding fatigue-related accidents, related to daylight saving time or not, drivers who begin to feel sleepy while driving must recognize that they are getting dangerously sleepy and take a break. On longer drives, you should plan on resting every two hours.
Other driving practices that are helpful during the time shift as well as at other times include the following:
- Keeping a safe distance from the car ahead to provide more reaction time.
- Refraining from drinking or taking medications that can add to drowsiness when you are planning to drive.
- Avoiding distractions while driving, including by adjusting the radio or attempting other actions you hope will keep you awake.
- Considering tech solutions as back-up for safety, such as monitors that detect lane departures, swerving, and other signs of drowsy driving that can alert the driver by sounding an alarm, engaging steering wheel vibrations, or other warning systems. Adaptive cruise control and other driver assist technologies can also help to keep a safe following distance.
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If you were seriously hurt or lost a loved one in a car accident because of another driver’s inattention or dangerous driving, you should be able to hold the at-fault driver accountable for your losses. The Highland Park car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr can help you prove your case and recover appropriate compensation. Call us today at 877-249-4600 or 732-537-8570 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients in New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth, and Newark.