WASHINGTON — Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is Nov. 5-11.
Given that 75% of drivers fail to detect their severe drowsiness, this serves as a crucial subject of emphasis for many, especially those who drive for a living.
Drowsy driving hampers one’s ability to remain attentive to the road, hinders the promptness of braking and steering responses and typically impairs decision-making skills akin to the effects of alcohol. National highway statistics reveal that monthly, a substantial number of U.S. drivers nod off at the wheel:
- Approximately 1 in 25 adult drivers (aged 18 years or older) admit to having fallen asleep while driving within the last 30 days.
- Roughly 15% of all fatal accidents can be attributed to a drowsy driver.
Come Nov. 5, daylight saving time is out and standard time is in, and will last until March 10, meaning that the sun will set before many folks step foot out the office door.
No need to wait till the midnight hour to prepare for the time change that clocks in early Sunday, when 2 a.m. becomes 1 a.m. Before bed beckons Saturday night, rewind the clock on the microwave, oven, car, or any other device not yet clever enough to make the leap on its own.
Besides scheduling stumbles and sleep habit disruptions, experts say the twice-yearly ritual can have more serious effects on human health.
Many Americans are already sleep-deprived, and a change in time messes with sleep schedules even more, says Dr. Phyllis Zee, a sleep researcher at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, although she says “falling back” and gaining an extra hour is generally easier on the body than “springing forward” and losing one.
Chronic sleep deprivation can increase levels of stress hormones that boost heart rate and blood pressure, and of chemicals that trigger inflammation, research suggests.
“Just that one hour can change the amount of sleep you get, the quality of sleep that you get,” Zee said. Off-kilter sleep can affect people’s ability to multitask, stay alert, and even maintain their balance, making them more prone to accidents.
Molly Hart, spokeswoman for AAA’s Auto Club Group, warned that there may be an uptick in accidents on the road following the time change.
“With daylight savings coming to an end, what people really need to be focused on is their driving now in the afternoon when it’s darker earlier,” and when they may be feeling drowsy, she said.
Drivers should recognize the signs of drowsiness:
- Difficulty focusing.
- Frequent blinking.
- Not remembering the last few miles driven.
- Head nodding.
- Repeated yawning or rubbing eyes.
- Drifting out of lane, tailgating or going over rumble strips.
“Some commonly-held reliefs for drowsiness, like rolling down the windows or blasting the radio, simply don’t work if you are sleep-deprived,” a National Road Safety Foundation spokesperson said. “The best thing is to find a safe spot to pull over and take a break and, if possible, take a 20-minute nap. Have a cup or two of coffee or a caffeinated snack and allow 30 minutes for the caffeine to enter the bloodstream. Don’t drink alcohol or take medications, which can bring on drowsiness.”
Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and most of Arizona do not observe daylight saving time.
Some members of Congress have pushed to end the back-and-forth and make daylight saving time permanent.
The U.S. Senate in March 2022 passed a bipartisan bill named the Sunshine Protection Act, but it stalled in the House. The bill was re-introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio in March of this year, then referred to committee, where it has remained idle.
The Trucker Staff contributed to this report.
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