On Sunday, Nov. 7, the clocks turn back an hour in the early morning hours to mark the end of daylight saving time (DST). While many people relish the idea of getting an extra hour of sleep, it also means that darkness falls much earlier. It can take some time for your mind and body to adjust to the disruption in your sleep cycle, even if the disruption means that you are getting one extra hour of sleep.
When the body’s internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, is disrupted, it can leave you feeling a bit tired and sluggish. This, combined with the fact that it is suddenly dark around 5:00 p.m., is just one reason why there is an increase in car accidents immediately following the time change. Reduced daylight, inclement weather, wet leaves, debris on the road, and foggy conditions can all increase the risk of a serious accident following DST.
What Are the Dangers of Drowsy Driving?
According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 60 percent of adult drivers said that they had driven while drowsy in the past year. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a survey which found that one in 25 adult drivers had fallen asleep behind the wheel over the course of a one-month period. This is a troubling statistic for a couple of reasons. First, the actual number of motorists who drive drowsy is likely much higher because drowsy driving is largely underreported. In addition, it is difficult to determine whether drowsy driving caused an accident.
Studies also show that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. In fact, when a motorist is awake for at least 18 hours straight, it can have the same effect on the body as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05 percent. Being awake for 24 hours or more is like having a BAC of 0.10 percent, which is higher than the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Like alcohol, extreme fatigue can impact your ability to focus and concentrate on the road, as well as your coordination and ability to react to another driver or an unexpected traffic event. Fatigue can also affect your mood, causing you to become irritable or short-tempered while driving. As a result, you may be more likely to tailgate if you are running late, cut off other drivers, swerve in and out of lanes, or make rude gestures at another motorist. Drowsiness can also increase the effects of alcohol, even if the driver only had one or two drinks.
How Do I Reset My Internal Clock After the Time Change?
In anticipation of the time change, there are some steps you can do to minimize the disruption to your circadian rhythm and reset your internal clock, including the following:
- Stick to a routine each day, particularly during the days leading up to and following the time change.
- When possible, spend time outdoors while it is still light outside.
- Get regular exercise, including at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise each day.
- Make sure that your sleep environment promotes sleep. Adjust the temperature to a cooler setting, turn the lights off, and avoid looking at your phone or any other type of screen, as the blue light can prevent your brain from “shutting down.”
- Avoid drinking any caffeinated beverages, alcohol, or nicotine before going to bed.
- Read a book or meditate before going to bed.
- Even though you may feel tired during the late afternoon or early evening hours following the time change, avoid taking a nap, as this can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep at bedtime.
What Safety Tips Should I Keep in Mind After the Time Change?
Fatigue, sluggishness, and lack of concentration are more often associated with losing an hour of sleep when we spring ahead in March. However, anytime there is a disruption in the body’s natural sleep cycle, it is going to affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally. This also means that you are more likely to get into a car accident in the days following the time change. To prevent this from happening, keep the following tips in mind.
Be Aware That it Takes Time to Adjust
Changing the clocks means that it is suddenly dark by 5:00 p.m. the very next day. It takes some time to get used to driving in the dark, particularly during rush hour when traffic is heaviest.
Follow Nighttime Driving Safety Tips
Some nighttime driving safety tips include:
- Make sure that your windshield is clean. Dust on the inside or outside of the glass can create a glare and impact visibility.
- Make sure that your headlights, taillights, and turn signals are working properly. Turn your headlights on at least one hour before sunset.
- Watch out for wet leaves and other debris in the road. The leaves that have started to fall can be very slippery. They can also cover potholes and cracks in the road. If you hit a large pothole, you could lose control of your vehicle and get into a serious accident.
- Do not look directly at the headlights from oncoming cars. Look down and to the right to avoid being blinded by the other vehicle’s headlights.
- Pay attention to reflections that you see, as this could be an animal’s eyes. Slow down to avoid hitting the animal.
- Avoid driving if you start to feel drowsy. If you have to drive, open your window, and for longer trips, take breaks, or pull over and take a short nap.
Get Enough Sleep
You may be surprised at how long it takes the body to adjust to an added hour of sleep, but the body’s internal clock takes some time to reset itself. In fact, for people who work a traditional job, it can take several days to fully adjust to the time change. Make sure that you are getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night, particularly during the nights leading up to the time change and for several nights after the time change.
Make Sure That Your Vehicle Is in Good Working Order
As the seasons change, it is always a good time to bring your vehicle in to have it inspected. A skilled mechanic will make sure that your tires are properly inflated, the brakes are in good condition, and the headlights and taillights are all working. In addition, they will check all of the vehicle’s fluid levels and replenish those that need to be refilled.
Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car
While this will not prevent an accident, it will ensure that you are prepared for an emergency situation. An emergency kit should include the following:
- Warm blanket
- Extra clothing
- Bottled water
- Ice scraper
- Sand or kitty litter
- Cellphone charger
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Non-perishable food items
- Basic tool kit
- First-aid kit
Springfield Car Accident Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Represent Clients Injured in Car Accidents Related to the Time Change
It is important that all drivers prepare for the time change, but you should not expect that every motorist will drive safely. If you were injured by a drowsy driver, you are urged to contact our Springfield car accident lawyers at Kicklighter Law as soon as possible. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. We are located in Springfield, Georgia, and we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.