Twice a year, the time changes to make the most out of sunlight hours. Every fall, the clocks “fall back” an hour, which happens this year on Sunday, Nov. 7 in the early morning hours.
The time shift forces people to make an adjustment to their internal clock as well, causing an disruption to the circadian rhythm. The subtle time change can impact a person’s natural sleep pattern, which studies show can lead to drowsy driving and even a car accident. In addition to the potential problem of sleepiness during the morning commute, when DST ends each fall, earlier sunsets may cause problems for drivers leaving work in the evening.
What Happens When Your Circadian Rhythm is Disrupted?
People do their best to keep their sleep cycle consistent, which is important. Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning has health benefits that go beyond feeling well-rested. Naturally, the amount of sleep a person gets is a significant factor, but for people who get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night, the advantages of a consistent sleep schedule offer added benefits to their heart health, metabolism, and stress levels.
When your sleep cycle is altered, your body is forced to adjust until a new rhythm is established. This creates a temporary, but not insignificant, problem when you are driving because you may feel drowsy.
How Does DST Impact Driving?
In the first few days after DST ends, many people report feeling groggy in the mornings as they adjust to the new schedule. Some people describe the feeling as being similar to the phenomenon of jet lag, which is when the body feels slightly off due to travel-related time shifts. This feeling is dangerous when people who may be experiencing DST-related sleepiness get behind the wheel of a car.
Drowsy drivers are more likely to cause car accidents. In fact, drowsy drivers exhibit some of the same symptoms as drivers under the influence of alcohol, including reduced focus and a slower reaction time.
The end of DST affects drivers because many people will travel in darkness after the Nov. time shift. The evening commute between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. will now be in darkness. Drivers who are used to making their way home before sunset must suddenly adjust to driving in darkness. Some drivers may not be accustomed to nighttime driving.
How Can I Avoid Drowsy Driving?
Motorists who are faced with driving in darker conditions than they are used to should make sure to use their headlights. Drivers should turn their headlights on before setting out, even if it is not completely dark outside yet. This is important because drivers who begin their commute when the sun is out may not notice how their visibility is greatly reduced as darkness gradually begins to fall.
Additionally, drivers can take proactive steps to combat drowsy driving. Some tips to prevent a drowsy driving car accident include:
- Recognize symptoms as they begin to appear. The first step in taking action against drowsy driving is recognizing the symptoms of fatigue. When your eyes begin to get heavy and you find yourself yawning and sense your mind drifting, you may be too tired to drive. Drowsy drivers may drift out of their lane, tailgate other motorists, or suddenly recognize that they lost track of time while driving.
- Safely pull over if you feel fatigued. The best way to avoid the dangers of drowsy driving is to get off the road whenever you feel a sense of sleepiness begin to take over. Removing yourself from the situation is the best way to regain control of yourself and your vehicle.
- Bring a passenger with you. Having someone with you in the car can help keep you alert. If you feel too tired, your passenger can take over and drive.
- Combat drowsiness before it starts. When circumstances challenge your ability to get adequate sleep, take charge of the situation by planning ahead of time. Try to adjust to DST by going to bed earlier, starting the week before the time shift. Additionally, go to bed approximately eight hours before your alarm is set to go off to adjust your internal clock gradually.
- Start slowly. Another approach might be to take a little extra time for the first few mornings after the time change to allow yourself enough time to get your day started. This will prevent you from rushing.
- Be aware that other drivers may be drowsy. Knowing how the time change can affect drivers, you should take your own safety precautions, but do not assume that other motorists will do the same. Steer clear of cars that drift into other lanes or show other signs that the driver may be drowsy.
Mount Laurel Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman Represent Clients Hurt by Negligent, Drowsy Drivers
Drivers should prepare for the end of DST, but you should not assume that all motorists will drive safely after the time change. If you were injured by a drowsy driver, reach out to our experienced Mount Laurel car accident lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman. We can help you understand your rights. Contact us online or call us at 856-751-2345 to set up a free consultation today. Located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.