Drowsy drivers maybe on the road after Daylight Saving Time

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RICHMOND, VA (AAA) – An hour of sleep was lost over the weekend in exchange for extended daylight hours, as Daylight Saving Time officially began at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, March 12.  However, Monday morning, many drivers may have lost a spring in their step and may not be fully alert as they travel to work and school.  Many motorists may now be faced with a darker morning drive or sun glare from a rising, as well as setting sun depending on their commuting times.

"Each spring we go through the ritual of setting our clocks forward one hour.  While some believe ‘just an hour' of lost sleep is not significant, many people, who are already sleep deprived going into the weekend, are more likely to be impaired from an attention and safety standpoint," said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA.  "A change in time can affect people physically and drivers can be more tired than they realize."

In a recent AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index report, nearly one in three drivers (32 percent) confessed they were so tired they drove drowsy during the previous 30 days. The study also found that nearly all drivers (97 percent) view sleepy drivers as a very serious threat to their personal safety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year.  The actual figure may be higher because police cannot always determine with certainty when driver fatigue results or is a contributory factor in a crash.

AAA advises motorists to make sure they get adequate sleep before getting behind the wheel of their vehicle.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults get 7-9 hours of sleep to maintain proper alertness during the day.

Signs of Drowsy Driving
  • You find yourself drifting out of your lane or hitting rumble strips.
  • You can't keep eyes open and focused.
  • You have wandering, disconnected thoughts.
  • You miss signs or drive past your exit.
  • You feel irritable and restless.

More hours of daylight as a result of the time change will mean more activity outdoors for children, pedestrians, runners, walkers and cyclists.  The auto club offers motorists and pedestrians the following safety tips:

AAA Mid-Atlantic Tips for Drivers
  • Slow down, pay attention and eliminate all distractions.
  • Watch out for pedestrians when backing up in parking lots or driveways.
  • To help with sun glare:

    • Increase your following distance from the vehicle ahead of you
    • Utilize your sun visor and invest in polarized sunglasses, as both can help reduce glare.
  • Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible during early morning and evening hours.
  • Keep vehicle headlights and windows (inside and out) clean.
  • Watch the high beams. Do not use high beams when other cars or pedestrians are around.
  • Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. Do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
  • Remember that your stopping distance should increase in rainy or snowy weather.

AAA offers a free online brochure, "How to Avoid Headlight Glare" at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety at www.aaafoundation.org.

 AAA Mid-Atlantic Tips for Pedestrians 
  • Cross at intersections or crosswalks - not in the middle of the street or between parked cars.
  • Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
  • Evaluate the distance and speed of oncoming traffic before you step out into the street.
  • Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking near traffic at dawn, dusk and night. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
  • Allow extra time and distance for a vehicle to stop in inclement weather.
  • While walking, pocket the cell phone and avoid listening to your iPod or MP3 player at a volume that prohibits you from hearing approaching danger.
  • Do not let umbrellas or jacket hoods block your view of approaching traffic.

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