With the arrival of daylight saving time this weekend, AAA is reminding drivers (who will be losing an hour’s sleep) to not only adjust their clocks – but also their sleeping habits to avoid drowsy driving.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours daily. And with drowsy driving involved in more than one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year, AAA warns drivers that getting less than seven hours of sleep may have deadly consequences.
According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, more than 3,000 crashes in 2015 involved drivers who fell asleep, fainted or felt fatigued.
“When the clocks change — whether we fall back or spring forward — sleep cycles are interrupted and drivers can be more tired than they realize,” said Cheryl Parker, director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA. “Losing one hour of sleep takes an adjustment and motorists need to prepare by getting more rest, especially on Sunday.”
A report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement, reveals that drivers missing 2-3 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period more than quadrupled their risk of a crash compared to drivers getting the recommended seven hours of sleep. This is the same crash risk the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration associates with driving over the legal limit for alcohol.
The AAA Foundation report found that in a 24-hour period, crash risk for sleep-deprived drivers increased steadily when compared to drivers who slept the recommended seven hours or more.
“Drivers cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,” said Parker. “This research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.”
Symptoms of drowsy driving include but are not limited to having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes or not remembering the last few miles driven. Overall, sleep deprivation slows reactions to stimuli, decreases accuracy of responses, and leads to long lapses in attention. However, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.
What’s more? While 97 percent of drivers told the AAA Foundation they view drowsy driving as a completely unacceptable behavior that is a serious threat to their safety, nearly one in three admit that at least once in the past month they drove when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open.
“Managing a healthy work-life balance can be difficult and far too often we sacrifice our sleep as a result,” said Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA. “Failing to maintain a healthy sleep schedule could mean putting yourself or others on the road at risk.”
The auto club offers motorists and pedestrians the following safety tips:
• Slow down, pay attention and eliminate all distractions.
• Watch out for pedestrians when backing up in parking lots or driveways.
• Sun glare can make it difficult to see so:
◦ Increase your following distance from the vehicle ahead of you;
◦ Utilize your sun visor and invest in polarized sunglasses, as both can help reduce glare.
• Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible during early morning and evening hours.
• Keep vehicle headlights and windows (inside and out) clean.
• Watch the high beams. Do not use high beams when other cars or pedestrians are around.
• Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. Do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
• Cross at intersections or crosswalks – not in the middle of the street or between parked cars. Do not jaywalk.
• Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
• Evaluate the distance and speed of oncoming traffic before you step out into the street.
• Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking near traffic at dawn, dusk and night. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
• Allow extra time and distance for a vehicle to stop in inclement weather.
• While walking, pocket the cell phone and avoid listening to your iPod or MP3 player at a volume that prohibits you from hearing approaching danger.
• Do not let umbrellas or jacket hoods block your view of approaching traffic.