A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

AAA: As we ‘spring forward,’ return to Daylight Saving Time increases driving drowsiness, dangers

One of the most anticipated “signs of spring” arrives this weekend when the clocks “spring forward” (Daylight Saving Time officially began at 2 a.m. today), and we lose an hour of sleep in exchange for extended daylight hours throughout the summer.

However, Monday morning’s commute will look very different for school students waiting for buses and motorists driving to work.

“Most people will see a dramatic difference during their morning commute on Monday, as roadways remain darker longer, causing concern for pedestrians,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, AAA Blue Grass manager of public and government affairs. 

“Motorists need to be aware of these dangers, remain alert, and minimize distractions to reduce the risk of motor vehicle crashes. Pedestrians, including school students waiting at bus stops, should be extra careful as well.”

Springing forward brings another danger: drowsy driving

In addition to darker morning commutes, the time change can create another danger: interrupted sleep patterns and drowsy motorists.

Drivers who miss from one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours daily. 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 dangerous and deadly consequences.

In Kentucky in 2014, there were 2,232 crashes related to driver fatigue, resulting in 1,201 injuries and 27 fatalities.

A AAA Foundation survey found that nearly all drivers (97 percent) say they view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior.

However, 29 percent admitted to driving when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open.

“A change in time can mean drivers are more tired than they realize,” noted AAA’s Weaver Hawkins.  “Drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash.”

AAA offers motorists and pedestrians the following safety tips:

AAA Tips for Drivers

• Rest Up. Get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. If you do begin to feel drowsy while driving, pull over immediately and rest, or call a family member or friend for assistance.
• Be prepared for morning/afternoon sun glare. Sun glare in the morning or early evening can cause temporary blindness. To reduce the glare, AAA recommends wearing high-quality sunglasses and adjusting the car’s sun visors as needed. Use of the night setting on rearview mirrors can reduce glare from headlights approaching from the rear.
• Car Care. Keep headlights, tail lights, signal lights, and windows (inside and out) clean.
• Ensure headlights are properly aimed. Misaimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce visibility.
• Dim headlights. Keep headlights on low beams when following another vehicle, so other drivers are not blinded.
• Reduce your speed and increase your following distances. It is more difficult to judge other vehicles’ speeds and distances at night.
• Be mindful of pedestrians and crosswalks. Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.

AAA Tips for Pedestrians

• Cross at intersections or crosswalks. Do not cross 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, pause to check for nearness and speed of nearby vehicles.
• Wear bright colors or reflective clothing. If you are walking near traffic at dawn, dusk or nighttime, avoid dark clothing or outerwear, which reduces your visibility to oncoming cars. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
• Use extra caution in inclement weather. Allow extra time and distance for a vehicle to stop in rainy, snowy or icy weather.
• Avoid distractions. While walking, pocket the cell phone and avoid listening to music at a volume that prohibits you from hearing approaching danger.
• Keep a clear field of vision. Do not let umbrellas, hats or hoods block your view of approaching traffic.

Additional information on drowsy driving and how motorists can recognize the symptoms may be found at this website.

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