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Daylight Savings Time is coming this weekend. But studies show that when the country’s clocks spring ahead, it can sometimes lead to auto accidents caused by drowsy driving. Stay alert and stay safe in the week ahead.
Could missing one hour of sleep really affect your diving? Researcher Austin C. Smith of the University of Colorado, Boulder, found that in the first six days of daylight saving time there were 302 deaths and costing $2.75 billion over a 10-year period. That’s a 17% increase on the Monday after the time shift. Mary Maguire, director of public and government affairs for AAA of Southern New England, told Telegram.com:
“When the clocks change — whether it is falling back or springing forward, peoples’ sleep cycles are interrupted, and when sleep cycles are interrupted, they tend to be drowsy.”
Most American drivers are sleep deprived. According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, more than one quarter of commuters (27%) admit drowsy driving at least a few days a month. 12%, drove dwowsy at least a few days a week, and for 4%, it was almost a daily occurrence.
But when we are sleepy behind the wheel, it can cause big problems. And not just on the day we spring ahead. Researchers say the impact on our sleep schedule can last for up to a week after the crash, particularly for those of us who don’t sleep very much. People who sleep for 6 or 7 hours a night are more likely to get into an auto accident than those who sleep 8 hours or more. If you sleep only 4 to 5 hours, you are at an even higher risk to crash.
“The ability to see what is happening ahead of you and to react to it is one of the most important things in driving,” said Chris Hayes, second vice president of transportation risk control with Travelers, a Hartford-based insurance company. “One of the things that goes along with this is sleep. If you just lack one hour of sleep, if people stick to their normal sleep schedule, that can have quite an impact.”
Don’t fall into the drowsy driving trap this weekend. Richard Allen, a Johns Hopkins neurologist, told Vox.com:
“A lot of these accidents occur because we don’t have residual sleep [reserves] to survive that insult,” he says. “When we’re running nearly empty on our sleep-wake status, it doesn’t take much to push it into a negative area.”
Be proactive by going to bed earlier in the days leading up to the time change. If you feel drowsy on the roads, pull over for a quick nap. You may be late, but at least you won’t be in a serious car accident just because you are tired.