March 8, 2019 – One of the most anticipated “signs of spring” arrives this weekend when the clocks “spring forward” (Daylight Saving Time officially begins at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 10), and we lose an hour of sleep in exchange for extended daylight hours throughout the summer. However, come next Monday morning, the commute will look very different for school students waiting for buses and motorists driving to work – in the dark.
“Most people will see a dramatic difference during their morning commute on Monday, as roadways remain darker longer, causing concern for pedestrians,” said Leslie Gamble, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Oklahoma. “Motorists need to be aware of these dangers, remain alert, and minimize distractions to reduce the risk of motor vehicle crashes, and pedestrians, including school students waiting at bus stops, should be extra careful as well.”
Spring forward…to drowsy driving?
In addition to darker morning commutes, the time change can create another danger: interrupted sleep patterns and drowsy motorists.
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, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. 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 dangerous and deadly consequences.
Data from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office shows that in 2017, there were 1,313 crashes where at least one driver was listed as being sleepy or very tired. In those 1,313 crashes in 2017, 13 people were killed. The data also shows that more than 30 percent of drowsy driving crashes happen between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.
In a AAA Foundation survey, 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 that drivers are more tired than they realize,” noted AAA Oklahoma’s Gamble. “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 Oklahoma offers motorists and pedestrians the following safety tips:
AAA Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma 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 Maintenance: 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.
- 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 Oklahoma Tips for Pedestrians
- 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 music at a volume that prohibits you from hearing approaching danger.
- Do not let umbrellas or jacket hoods block your view of approaching traffic.
Additional information on drowsy driving and how motorists can recognize the symptoms may be found at https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/drowsy-driving/