By Zachary D. Campbell, Lawyer at Metzger Wickersham
November brings the annual tradition of changing the clocks back one hour for the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST). Unfortunately, this means it will be dark outside by the time you leave work and begin your evening commute.
Changing clocks also can affect a person’s sleep habits and many people report being more tired the days and weeks following the time change. A person’s sleep pattern can be thrown off causing drowsiness.
Because of this, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) designates one week following the end of DST as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week (DDPW). The Foundation’s goal is to raise awareness to help reduce the number of drivers who drive while sleep deprived. According to the Foundation, there are more than 6,400 deaths in the U.S. annually because of drowsy driving.
Drowsy Driving Accidents and the Holidays
Fatigue presents a serious safety issue for motorist during any season. But much like drunk driving, driving accidents caused by drowsy drivers tend to spike around the time of major holidays. This is partially attributed to the fact that during the holiday season, more people travel longer distances or spend more time on local roads. In fact, Christmas and New Year’s following the Thanksgiving holidays are the top travel times for Americans. According to United States Department of Transportation, the average trip miles during Christmas and New Year’s is estimated at 275 compared with a national average of 261 miles for trips taken during the rest of the year.
Driving while tired or drowsy can slow down your reaction time and also decrease awareness of your surroundings. The NSF encourages everyone to prioritize sleep and drive when alert and refreshed.
If you notice the following warning signs for drowsy driving, pull over to a safe place and get some rest, stretch, or drink a caffeinated beverage.
- Finding it hard to focus on the road, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Starting to daydream, wandering eyes, and have disconnected thoughts
- Having trouble remember the last few miles driven
- Missing an exit or ignoring traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Finding it hard to keep your head up or nodding off
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable or becoming aggravated with common annoyances such as sitting in traffic
It is imperative that you pull over if you notice any of these signs or symptoms. Take a break, rest your eyes, get out and stretch if you can do so safely. Only get back behind the wheel when you are feeling refreshed and okay to continue.
Before you hit the road to visit family for the holidays or depart on a cross-country road trip, plan ahead.
- Get the recommended amount of sleep the night before your trip. The NSF recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults and 8-10 hours for teens.
- Plan longer trips and schedule regular stops for your trip, every 100 miles or two hours. Plan your trips ahead of time by plotting out the rest stops or points of interest along your route. Stopping every two hours gets you out from behind the wheel to rest a little or stretch to improve blood circulation.
- Avoid driving during the night or at a time when you normally sleep. If you can, bring a companion along to share the driving duties and to keep alert for signs of driver fatigue.
- Avoid alcohol and be aware of any medications (over-the-counter and prescribed) that may cause drowsiness and impair performance.
Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. Falling asleep at the wheel is preventable! Do your part to combat drowsy driving. Get rest – a good night’s sleep not only helps your body, it helps your brain. Be proactive and know the warning signs of fatigued driving.
To ensure you arrive safely at your destination, choose sleep first and drive alert – don’t operate a motor vehicle when you are sleep-deprived.
Contact Us Today
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a drowsy driver, now is the time to contact the Pennsylvania drowsy driving accident lawyers at Metzger Wickersham. Contact us online or call (888) 286-2850.