As you may have heard, car accidents consistently rank among the top causes of death in the United States. National Highway Traffic Safety data shows that over the past two decades, around 30,000-40,000 people have died every year as a result of car accidents, and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that around 21% of those crashes were caused directly by drowsy driving. With the end of daylight savings time, law enforcement agencies around the country are expecting to see the usual uptick in driver fatalities related to drowsy driving, and once again, they’re warning drivers to be extra careful when they get behind the wheel while adjusting to the time change. Here are a few tips from Resurgens Orthopaedics on how you can recognize the symptoms of drowsiness and avoid getting in the driver’s seat when you’re impaired by fatigue.
Drowsy Driving Warning Signs
Daylight Savings Time can absolutely interrupt your normal sleep schedule, leaving you feeling drowsy; of course, you still have places to be and it can be easy to ignore the signs and symptoms of drowsy driving when you need to get somewhere on time. Unfortunately, that mindset can result in fatal car accidents, especially among shift workers and others who need to drive late at night or in the early morning. Here are some signs that you may be too drowsy to drive from the National Sleep Foundation:
- Difficulty focusing
- Frequent blinking/ heavy eyelids
- Missing exits or traffic signs; having difficulty remembering the last few miles driven
- Yawning or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting out of your lane
- Feeling restless or irritable
Some of these signs can be identified before you start driving but if you’re already behind the wheel, it’s a good idea to pull over for a few minutes to rest. You may end up being late but your family and friends will be happy knowing that you did the responsible thing to keep yourself and other drivers safe.
What to do if You’re too Drowsy to Drive
In terms of impairment, experts compare drowsy driving to driving while intoxicated; some believe it may even be more dangerous. If you’ve identified any of the above symptoms, here are a few things you can do to avoid drowsy driving:
- Take public transportation or walk, if possible
- Call a friend, family member, or co-worker to carpool
- Call a taxi or ride-sharing service
- Take a short nap (at least 15 minutes) until you feel more alert
- While it’s not ideal, caffeinated beverages have been shown to temporarily increase alertness
- Plan ahead; make sleep a priority and go to bed early while you’re adjusting to daylight savings time
The time shift we experience during Daylight Savings Time can be tough to deal with but it only takes a week or two to get adjusted. During that time, it’s important that you recognize the potential dangers of drowsy driving and do everything you can to avoid it, not just for your own safety but for the safety of others on the road as well. Drive safe, and make sure you get plenty of sleep!