Drivers who work the night shift, travel across time zones, and suffer from sleep disorders aren't the only ones affected by drowsy driving. As the days get shorter and daylight saving time approaches, drivers should be aware that the likelihood of dozing off behind the wheel will soon increase significantly.
Each year in the United States, there are roughly 91,000 crashes caused by drowsy driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As a result, an average of 800 people die and 50,000 are injured each year. Since drowsy driving doesn't always leave behind any indisputable evidence, however, the number of drowsy driving crashes is likely higher.
How will the fall and winter season increase the chances of a drowsy driving accident?
On November 3, we'll all set our clocks back by one hour. You may be wondering how an extra hour of sleep will increase drowsiness.
There could be more drowsy driving because of the impact an hour time change can have on our circadian rhythm (our internal process that programs when we're alert and when we sleep). Think of it as having jet lag. When you travel to a different time zone, your circadian rhythm will need a few days to adjust to a new sleep schedule.
Daylight saving time (both in the fall and spring) works the same way. Drivers who already don't get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night are especially at risk. There are ways this can be mitigated:
- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier than you usually do prior to daylight savings.
- Take short daytime naps in the days following daylight saving time in order to adjust.
The time change isn't the only thing that will induce drowsiness in the coming fall and winter season. The days are already getting shorter, but once the clock goes back an hour, drivers will spend more time in the dark.
By not being exposed to adequate daytime light, our circadian rhythm gets the impression that it's time to sleep. It then releases the sleep hormone melatonin. This can put drivers at risk of nodding off.
Do drivers have to fall asleep to be affected by drowsy driving?
Drivers don't have to conk out completely to experience the impact of drowsy driving. When drivers nod off, it usually involves what verywellhealth refers to as "microsleep." It's a short, uncontrollable episode of sleep that typically lasts from a fraction of a second up to 10 seconds. This is just enough time for a serious crash to occur.
What's worse, drowsy drivers who experience microsleep know they are driving drowsy, as it often occurs when someone is fighting sleep. While microsleep tends to happen to drivers who are sleep-deprived, they happen most often at night.
Even when drowsy drivers manage to stay awake, they may experience:
- Brief lapses in memory
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor judgment
- Loss of muscle control
- Missing signs and exits
- Running over the rumble strip on the highway
In the event that you or a loved one is hurt in a crash with a drowsy driver, don't hesitate to speak to a Cleveland car accident attorney at Merriman Legal, LLC. Our legal team has real courtroom experience representing injured motorists and maximizing their compensation. To find out how we can help you, contact us online and schedule your no-obligation consultation.