Clock changes heighten risks of drowsy driving

Mar 14, 2016

Some folks are probably yawning a bit more in recent days and struggling to adjust to a change in routine.

We all know why: daylight saving time has cost dreamers an hour of sleep. The adjustment can leave many people feeling drowsy. Still, this doesn’t stop some from embarking on load road trips. AAA of Western & Central New York is red-flagging the risks of drowsy driving.

“AAA research shows that more than one  in five -- that’s 21% of fatal crashes -- do involve driver fatigue,” said Elizabeth Carey, AAA’s regional public affairs manager. “So drowsy driving is something we need to take seriously on the roads and try to prevent.”

Elizabeth Carey, public affairs manager for AAA of Western & Central New York
Credit AAA

Statistics show that 95% of drivers believe it’s unacceptable to drive when motorists are feeling extremely tired. Yet 28% admit to having done so over the past month. Carey said if drivers experience any symptoms of drowsiness, they should pull over to get some rest.

“If all the sudden you’re driving, and you’re like ‘I don’t remember the last few miles that I traveled, or if you realize your thoughts keep wandering, you’re having trouble keeping your eyes open, staying focused, you keep yawning, and your head feels heavy, these are signs of drowsy driving and you should pull over and take a break,” she said.

Drowsy driving becomes even more problematic when people take long excursions. Many individuals who are planning spring vacations are expected to drive to their destination because gas prices are so low.  Carey said sleep deprivation can cause devastating effects.

“A lot of people think it’s a great idea, ‘Oh we’ll drive overnight and get to our destination for our spring vacation in the morning and we’ll be ready to go.’ A lot of the time that causes trouble, because people are driving at times when they’re normally sleeping. So you want to make sure you do get rest in advance. If you’re not accustomed to driving at night, you might want to wait and travel when you’re normally awake.”

Other helpful for motorists and pedestrians who hope to avoid encounters with drowsy drivers include  crossing streets only at crosswalks and using headlights to make vehicles more visible.