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Daylight Savings Time: The Dangers of Driver Fatigue

bigstock-180327130-1024x684There are a lot of things to dislike about daylight saving time: the disruption in our sleep schedule, the onslaught of seasonal puns in retail advertisements, the fact that it doesn’t work as well at saving energy as we’ve always been told, and thus, it really serves no purpose.

But have you ever thought about the possibility that daylight saving time might actually be dangerous? Turning the clocks back should technically amount to an extra hour of sleep, but this is not necessarily true. When the clocks change, whether it is falling back or springing forward, studies have found people’s sleep cycles are interrupted which actually causes them to sleep less. One hour of sleep lost or gained may sound like a small change, but studies have shown it can have major effects on both our physical and mental health. In turn, these negative health effects set off a chain reaction that affects other aspects of our life. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a vehicle accident as those who sleep eight hours or more; people sleeping less than 5 hours increased their risk to be involved in a vehicle accident four to five times more.

Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder studied the daylight saving time period (from March to November) for 10 years and discovered there was a 17 percent increase in traffic incident-related deaths the Monday after the spring time change. Traffic fatalities all that week were also higher than average. Some of the effects can be attributed to lower visibility (the fact that it’s earlier, and therefore darker, than drivers are accustomed to), but most of the accidents, experts say, are because people are struggling to stay awake behind the wheel.

The traffic statistics alone seem like pretty conclusive evidence that daylight saving time is more than a mere inconvenience. And researchers say that the grogginess we feel for the first couple of days after we change the clocks might just be scratching the surface of how our bodies actually process the disruption. People who only sleep four or five hours a night under normal circumstances are at a much higher risk of causing a car crash than people who sleep six or seven hours a night, and people who get eight hours of sleep or more are least likely to cause a crash. But when sleep cycles get disrupted, everyone gets messed up.

Now, this does not mean that if you drive or walk the streets during the days after a time change that your fate is sealed. It simply means that you should take steps to ensure you avoid fatigue as best as possible. Here are some tips to help avoid driver fatigue:

  • Get enough sleep: try not to drive while your body is naturally drowsy, which is generally between midnight and 6 a.m. or between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Drowsiness impairs a driver’s response time to potential hazards.
  • Avoid drowsiness inducing medications: some of the most common medicines that make you drowsy include allergy medicines, cold medicines, or sleep aids like melatonin.
  • Do not rely on tricks: many people think drinking coffee, smoking, turning up the radio, or opening a car window can help them stay alert. These may actually have adverse effects on the driver as they may distract or inhibit the driver’s decision making.
  • Practice defensive driving: by staying alert and monitoring your actions as well as other drivers, you stand the best chance of avoiding fatigue symptoms as well as maintaining a readiness to avoid other negligent drivers.

Pay attention to driver fatigue, as you could save your life or someone else’s. Remain vigilant of other drivers that may be experiencing fatigue. If you notice another vehicle unable to maintain a speed or swerving in between lanes, it is best to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle. You may also want to contact local authorities who may be in a position to help the driver before they cause injuries to themselves or others. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to the negligence of another, please do not hesitate to call the experienced personal injury attorneys at the Reyes Browne Reilley Law Firm. Our aggressive staff know how to handle cases regarding fatigued drivers and the accidents they cause.

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