March 13, 2021 – The arrival of Daylight Saving Time this weekend means one less hour of sleep and the potential for more sleepy drivers on the road. AAA Oklahoma is reminding drivers to adjust your clock and your sleeping habits to make sure you’re alert behind the wheel.
According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the percentage of crashes involving drowsiness is nearly eight times higher than federal estimates. The difficulty in detecting drowsiness following a crash makes drowsy driving one of the most underreported traffic safety issues.
“When the clocks change, sleep cycles are interrupted and drivers can be more tired than they realize,” said Leslie Gamble, AAA Oklahoma spokesperson. “Losing one hour of sleep takes an adjustment and motorists need to prepare by getting more rest, especially on Sunday."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35%of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily. In AAA’s study, nearly all drivers (96 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 at some point in the past month.
“As many Americans struggle to balance their busy schedules, missing a few hours of sleep each day can often seem harmless,” said Gamble. “But missing just two to three hours of sleep can more than quadruple your risk for a crash, which is the equivalent of driving drunk.”
Knowing the warning signs of drowsiness can help drivers avoid dozing off behind the wheel. The most common symptoms include:
- Having trouble keeping your eyes open
- Drifting from your lane
- Not remembering the last few miles driven
Drivers however should not rely on their bodies to provide warning signs for drowsiness and should instead prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep before hitting the road.
AAA recommends that drivers:
- Travel at times of the day when they are normally awake
- Avoid heavy foods
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
For longer trips, drivers should:
- Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
- Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving
- Do not underestimate the power of a quick nap. Pulling into a rest stop and taking a quick catnap―at least 20 minutes and no more than 30 minutes of sleep―can help to keep you alert on the road.
The other issue increasing risk with the time change is darkness. The Monday morning commute, and the morning commute for several weeks to come, will be much darker than what drivers are used to, a serious concern because 76 percent of pedestrian fatalities happen when it’s dark, according to findings from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released in February 2020.
Seasonal transitions not only can mean lack of sleep, but also allergy issues. AAA wants to warn motorists to be mindful of how medications taken to cure the seasonal flare-ups may impair their ability to drive, causing drowsiness. To help determine if a driver’s medications may cause drowsiness, AAA and the AAA Foundation developed Roadwise Rx, a free and confidential online tool that generates personalized feedback about how the interactions between prescription, over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements can affect safety behind the wheel.