DENVER (March 6, 2020) – While the Sunday start of daylight saving time means that Spring is in sight, it also carries with it one fewer hour of shut-eye and a shift in our sleeping patterns that can spell disaster on our roadways.
All told, sleep-deprived drivers cause more than 6,400 deaths and 50,000 debilitating injuries on American roadways each year, per the National Sleep Foundation. And, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, driver fatigue was a contributing factor in 1,053 crashes in the state in 2018 -- and more than 11,000 crashes between 2005 and 2018.
"It takes two weeks for most of us adjust to the shorter nights and our new sleep schedules," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "Between now and then, we're all exposed to the risks of drowsy driving. Drivers should begin adjusting their sleep habits now to make sure they get at least seven hours of sleep before getting behind the wheel."
Symptoms of drowsy driving can include trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes, or not remembering the last few miles driven. Alarmingly, however, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.
"Your body can't always warn you that you're too tired to drive," McKinley said. "The only safe bet is making sure you get enough sleep."
Per research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:
- Drivers who have slept for less than five hours have a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.
- Drivers who miss one to two hours of sleep can nearly double their risk for a crash.
- 96 percent of drivers view drowsy driving as completely unacceptable behavior that is a serious threat to their safety, but nearly 29 percent admit to driving when they were so tired they had a time keeping their eyes open at least once in the prior 30 days.
"America's problems with drowsy driving stem from this 'Do as I say, not as I do' mindset," McKinley said. "The start of daylight saving time gives us a good reason to review our driving habits, especially because we'll all be losing at least one hour of sleep. Get enough rest, and be mindful of everyone on the roads – other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians."
How to: Stay Safe
- Rest up. Get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel. Your crash risk goes way up whenever you get fewer than seven hours of sleep. If you do begin to feel drowsy while driving, pull over immediately and rest or call a family member or friend for assistance.
- Always watch for pedestrians when backing up in parking lots or driveways – especially in the darker morning hours. Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible.
- Avoid eating heavy foods or sleep-inducing medications before driving.
- Keep headlights on low beams when following another vehicle, so other drivers are not blinded. Turn off your high beams when there's traffic in the oncoming lane.
- Be mindful of pedestrians and crosswalks. Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
Moving our clocks ahead one hour means it will be darker in the mornings for the next several weeks. Children will be on their way to school during this time, so drivers must remain vigilant.
- Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is two-thirds more likely to survive compared to a pedestrian struck by a driver traveling just 10 mph faster.
- Stay alert. Drivers should always avoid distractions while driving, but it's particularly important in school zones and residential neighborhoods.
- Headlights. Turn on the vehicle's daytime running lights or headlights - even during the day - so children and other drivers can see you more easily.
As we adjust to daylight saving time, now is the time to check the illumination of your headlights.
- Your headlights matter: 50 percent of all crashes occur at night.
- Headlights occasionally will show signs of deterioration as early as three years of age. Most will after five years.
- AAA suggests drivers check their headlights for changes in appearance such as yellowing or clouding. If the bulb is difficult to see, it is time to have the lens replaced or restored as soon as possible.
- Replacement and restoration services are available at most repair shops, including AAA Approved Auto Repair Facilities.
- Do-it-yourself restoration offers some savings for consumers, is relatively simple, and provides a sufficient improvement in light output.
- Make sure headlights are properly re-aimed to maximize forward lighting performance and minimize glare to oncoming and preceding drivers.
- Compensate for reduced visibility by decreasing your speed and increasing following distance to four or more seconds behind the car in front of you.
- Keep your eyes moving. Do not focus on the middle of the area illuminated by your headlights. Watch for sudden flashes of light at hilltops, around curves or at intersections - as these may indicate the presence of oncoming vehicles.
- Look at the sides of objects. In dim light, focus on the edges or outlines of objects. Your eyes can pick up images more sharply this way than by looking directly at the object.
- Avoid being blinded by oncoming high beams. If the driver of an oncoming vehicle fails to dim the lights, look toward the right side of the road. You should be able to see the edge of the lane or the white-painted edge line and stay on course until the vehicle passes.
About AAA Colorado
More than 700,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state’s greatest advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 60 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services — as well as member-exclusive savings. A not-for-profit organization since its founding in 1923, AAA Colorado has been recognized as the number one Colorado company its size for its advocacy, community engagement, and corporate social responsibility efforts – and is a proud member of Points of Light’s “The Civic 50 Colorado,” recognizing the 50 most community-minded companies in the state. For more information, visit AAA.com.