The summer is officially over. That means over the next few weeks, the days will become progressively shorter as we approach daylight saving time. And one of the most common risks associated with the fall season is drowsy driving.
Missing even a couple of hours of sleep on any given night has a similar effect of driving under the influence of alcohol. It's recommended that people get at least seven hours of sleep per night, especially if they plan on driving the following day. Research shows that about 40 percent of Americans get six hours or less sleep per night on average, however. With statistics like this, it's no wonder the crash rate increases after daylight saving time.
Daylight saving time: a major factor in drowsy driving crashes
On Sunday, November 3, we'll be setting our clocks back by an hour and that means an hour of sleep "gained." While they may sound good for most Ohio residents, this change in sleeping schedule could result in increased drowsiness behind the wheel for some.
That's because, according to WebMD, the one hour time change throws off our circadian rhythm, which is our natural, internal clock that programs when we sleep. This time change will affect our circadian rhythm in two ways:
- A change in sleeping schedule: The one-hour change has a similar effect of jetlag, which occurs when we travel across regions with different time zones. It can take roughly a week for our circadian rhythm to fully adjust to daylight saving time. For those who don't get adequate sleep, it can take longer. In order to safely transition to the time change without experiencing the harsh effects, WebMD suggests going to bed 15 minutes earlier than you usually do in the days leading up to daylight saving time. In addition, drivers should take short afternoon naps in the days following daylight saving time until they fully adjust.
- One less hour of daylight: Our circadian rhythm is heavily influenced by how much light and darkness we're exposed to. When we're not exposed to adequate light, our internal clock naturally releases the sleep hormone melatonin. Many Ohio residents who commute home in the late afternoon and early evening will be driving in the dark. After a long day of working, this is when drivers are highly susceptible to dozing off behind the wheel.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are roughly 91,000 crashes each year in the United States that are caused by drowsy driving. This results in an average of 800 traffic fatalities and 50,000 injuries yearly.
Identifying the risks
Anyone can fall asleep behind the wheel, especially after daylight saving time, and those most at risk include:
- Drivers under 25 years of age
- Drivers with undiagnosed/untreated sleep disorders
- Shift workers - those who work night shifts or rotating shifts
- Truck drivers
- Business travelers
Drowsy driving doesn't always include falling asleep. It can result in poor concentration, reduced reaction time, and poor memory.
Drivers who find themselves getting tired behind the wheel should do the following:
- Pull over somewhere safe, turn off the car (while leaving the keys in the ignition) and take a short nap.
- Roll down the window or turn up the radio.
- Stop for a cup of coffee to provide a temporary boost.
- Stop your car somewhere safe, get out, and walk around.
- If you have a passenger who is able to drive, let him or her take the wheel.
We don't always choose when we fall asleep. That's why crashes caused by drowsy driving can happen in the blink of an eye, especially for those who trudge along despite the warning signs.
If you or a loved one was hurt in a crash caused by a drowsy driver, get an experienced Ohio car accident attorney on your side. The legal team at Gervelis Law Firm will fight on your behalf and help you recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Contact us today to learn more.