On March 8, 2020, we will be setting the clocks ahead by one hour. This one-hour change may cause a temporary uptick in drowsy driving. That's because daylight savings often disrupts our circadian rhythm, which is the body's natural clock. It programs when we sleep and when we're alert.
For those who don't receive adequate sleep, it can take about a week to catch up to the time change. Drowsy driving crashes often increase during that time.
Jeff Hickman is a research scientist at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. In order to prevent crashes after daylight savings, he suggests avoiding driving during the early morning hours and during rush hour. These two periods are when drowsy driving crashes tend to increase.
Who is the most at risk of drowsy driving after daylight savings?
Anyone who loses a few hours of sleep on any given night can be at risk of falling asleep at the wheel. According to The National Sleep Foundation, some drivers are more at risk than others. These include:
- Younger drivers (especially males under age 26)
- People who work overnight shifts, rotating shifts, or long hours
- Commercial truck drivers
- People with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia
- Those who travel for business or across time zones
- Parents of young children
- Drivers who receive six hours of sleep or less per night
- Those who take certain prescription or over-the-counter medications
What factors cause drowsy driving?
While the evening commute will be brighter after daylight savings, many morning drivers will find themselves in the dark as sunrise is delayed an hour. Lack of sunlight can have an impact on our circadian rhythm, since darkness causes the natural release of the sleep hormone melatonin. Drivers must be vigilant when commuting to work in the days following daylight savings.
Alabama has many long rural roadways. According to the NHTSA, drowsy driving crashes often occur on these roads. A lack of landmarks and limited stops can cause drivers' attention (and eventually alertness) to drift.
Why should I consult with an attorney if I'm injured in a car accident?
Drowsy driving resulted in nearly 800 traffic fatalities in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A 2018 study from sleepjunkie.org ranked Alabama second in the nation for traffic fatalities caused by drowsy driving — just behind Texas.
These fatalities all have one thing in common — they are preventable. Drowsy driving often gives several warning signs indicating that it's time to get off the road. These include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heavy eyelids and frequent blinking
- Daydreaming and wandering thoughts
- Frequent yawning
- Restlessness and irritability
- Trouble remembering last few miles driven
- Missing highway exits and traffic signs
- Drifting from lane or crossing centerline
When drowsy drivers fail to heed the warning and get off the road, they often put other road users in danger. If you were hurt in a crash or lost a loved one due to a drowsy driver, it's critical that you speak to an experienced Alabama attorney as soon as possible.
Dean Waite & Associates, LLC have experience fighting for clients just like you in Mobile, Alabama. We pride ourselves on securing justice and fair financial compensation for our clients by going on the offensive and never backing down. We will treat you as a partner, not a customer. Contact us today for a free case consultation.