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TOLEDO, OH - With the end of Daylight Saving Time, motorists need to prepare for changes during their commutes that could impact driver and pedestrian safety. AAA warns motorists to be prepared for sun glare during their morning commute and reduced visibility on the road as darkness comes to their evening commute.
“Ninety percent of drivers’ reaction time is dependent upon their vision, which is severely limited once darkness falls,” said Kara Hitchens, AAA Spokesperson. “Motorists have gotten used to nearly eight months of daylight for their evening commutes, but that’s about to change. Sunset is one of the most challenging times to drive because motorists’ eyes are frequently adjusting to the increasing darkness. That’s why motorists are encouraged to focus on night driving safety measures as Daylight Saving Time comes to an end.”
AAA recommends wearing high-quality sunglasses and adjusting the car’s sun visors as needed. Late afternoon driving also presents a glare problem, so drivers should take similar precautions. Use of the night setting on rearview mirrors can reduce glare from headlights approaching from the rear.
Changes in behavior can also increase risk
The time change can also cause disturbed sleep patterns, and when combined with the earlier dusk and darkness during the evening commute, become a formula for drowsy driving and fatigue-related crashes.
Researchers at Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University, along with the Insurance Bureau of British Columbia, found that changes in motorist behavior as Daylight Saving Time ends are also likely contributing to an increased risk of vehicle crashes, an effect that has been shown to last up to two weeks following the time change. It’s believed motorists stay up later than usual, anticipating they’ll get an extra hour of sleep, then end up driving drowsy the next day.
“With an increase in deer movement and lower visibility this time of the year, it’s critical to drive alert whenever you’re behind the wheel,” said Hitchens. “Driving drowsy is an underrated risk with serious consequences.”
The difficulty in detecting drowsiness following a crash makes drowsy driving one of the most underreported traffic safety issues. The percentage of crashes involving drowsiness is nearly eight times higher than federal estimates indicate, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Last year, the Foundation released findings of the most in-depth drowsy driving research ever conducted in the U.S., providing an unprecedented analysis of in-vehicle dash-cam video from more than 700 crashes. The results confirmed that the danger of drowsy driving is much greater than official estimates might suggest.
“Everyone looks forward to an extra hour of sleep this weekend, but motorists often overlook the added dangers that can come as the result of a time change when they are behind the wheel,” continued Hitchens. “Although we gain an hour of sleep, our sleep patterns are disrupted and there is the temptation to stay up later at night. This can result in drowsy driving episodes that put drivers and pedestrians at greater risk.”
Symptoms of drowsy driving can include having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes or not remembering the last few miles driven. However, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.
AAA Tips for Drivers:
- 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, friend or 911 for assistance.
- Reduce speed and increase following distances.
- Turn on your headlights to become more visible during early morning and evening hours.
- Keep vehicle headlights and windows (inside and out) clean.
- Do not use high beams when other cars or pedestrians are near.
- Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
AAA Tips for Pedestrians and Bicyclists:
- Cross only at intersections. Look left, right and left again and only cross when it is clear. 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 or biking near traffic at night. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
- Avoid distracted walking. This includes looking at your phone, wearing headphones or listening to music.
- Bicycle lights are a ‘must have’ item for safe night riding, especially during the winter months when it gets dark earlier.
Released in 2018, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s report, Prevalence of Drowsy Driving Crashes: Estimates from a Large-Scale Naturalistic Driving Study, is based on the analysis of in-vehicle video footage of crashes that occurred during the Second Strategic Highway Research Program’s Naturalistic Driving Study (SHRP 2 NDS). The federally funded study recruited 3,593 drivers from six study sites across the U.S. The drivers were monitored continually using in-vehicle video and other data collection equipment while driving their personal vehicles for a period of several months.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than three million members in Ohio. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a non-stock, non-profit corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.AAA.com.