This year, daylight savings time ends on Nov. 1. As peoples’ clocks fall back, it takes time for their circadian rhythms to adjust to this shift. Furthermore, the days grow shorter as winter approaches, and many motorists’ evening commutes will happen in the dark. It’s no surprise, then, that drowsy driving accidents increase during this period.
Drowsy driving’s impact
Drowsy driving contributes to around 100,000 motor vehicle accidents every year. These accidents result in around 1,550 deaths annually, as well as thousands more non-fatal injuries. The number of people who admit to drowsy driving is also a cause for concern. Over 40% of adult motorists have fallen asleep at the wheel at least one in their lifetime, and around 20% have done so in the past year.
By driving while drowsy, motorists increase their accident risk threefold. This is because fatigue affects their focus, reaction time and awareness of their surroundings.
Preventing drowsy driving
One way that motorists can prevent drowsy driving is by adopting better sleep habits. To feel rested, adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Drivers who have slept less than seven hours and feel fatigued can protect themselves by pulling off the road and taking a short nap. Motorists can also consume caffeine if they need a short-term boost, though this will not help restore long-term alertness.
Some newer vehicles are equipped with drowsiness detection systems. Certain systems determine drowsiness by the frequency of a motorist’s lane departures. Others, though, will track their behavior behind the wheel and compare it with their normal driving patterns. If the system detects drifting or deviation, it alerts the motorist. This alert often appears as a warning light on a vehicle’s dash, indicated by a coffee cup or similar symbol. A vibration or sound may accompany it.
Many motorists take medications that include drowsiness as a side effect. Those who do are wise to stay off the road after taking it. If they need to go somewhere, they can rely on a friend or relative for a ride, order a rideshare car or take public transportation.