At 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March, most states will set the clocks forward one hour in observance of Daylight Saving Time (DST). With this time shift comes less sleep, darker morning commutes, and more car accidents. A new study reveals that DST causes an increase in fatal car crashes. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder studied 732,000 accidents over two decades and found that there was a six percent spike in fatal car crashes in the week following DST.
Additionally, the study shows that people in the western regions of the United States get an average of 19 minutes less sleep than those on the east because the sun rises and sets later. Sleep deprivation combined with driving to work in the dark can have catastrophic consequences. According to the study, western regions saw an eight percent spike in fatal accidents during the week following the spring shift.
The president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine cautions that the time switch can lead to disruptions in sleep pattern, which reduces daytime alertness. Some states are considering implementing a year-round DST because research continues to unveil the negative effects. A Rutgers University professor estimates that motor vehicle fatalities would be reduced by 195 people each year if a year-round DST were to be implemented.
According to the senior author of the study, permanent standard time would be better for overall health as research shows that it is beneficial to have more hours of morning light and less of evening light. For now, Virginia drivers can reduce their risks of being involved in accidents by refraining from drinking alcohol or coffee at night, reducing their exposure to blue light from cellphones and computers before bed, and most importantly, getting enough sleep.
Why is Drowsy Driving so Dangerous?
One of the most dangerous consequences of DST is fatigue. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving and has many of the same effects, such as reduced coordination, decreased alertness, and slowed reaction time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that being awake for at least 18 hours is like having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent. Being awake for at least 24 hours is equivalent to having a BAC of 0.10 percent, which is higher than the legal limit.
There were 795 deaths and approximately 50,000 injuries due to drowsy driving-related crashes in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Most drowsy driving crashes occur between midnight and 6:00 a.m. or in the late afternoon; however, the causes of drowsy driving are varied.
What are the Causes of Drowsy Driving?
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), there are several factors in addition to the time of day that may cause or contribute to drowsy driving, including:
Lack of Sleep: The NSF recommends that adults between 24 to 64 years old and young adults between 18 and 25 years old should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Adults aged 65 years old and older require seven to eight hours. However, the ideal amount of sleep for each person varies and should be individually assessed.
Sleep Disorders: Those with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders are at risk of drowsy driving. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drivers with untreated sleep apnea experience two to seven times more crashes than people without the sleep disorder.
Alcohol: Alcohol is a depressant; therefore, drinking before getting behind the wheel can lead to drowsiness. Additionally, alcohol can impair decision-making and other essential aspects of driving performance.
Medications: Certain medications cause sleepiness and should not be taken prior to driving. Even medications taken at night, such as sleep aids, can cause fatigue the next morning.
Who is at Risk of Being Involved in a Drowsy Driving Crash?
Anyone can drive drowsy, but there are certain drivers who are at an increased risk of being involved in a drowsy driving crash, including:
Night Shift Workers: The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that 62 percent of night shift workers complain about sleep loss. Those who are on rotating shifts are also at an increased risk due to their fluctuating sleep schedules. A study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety found that working the night shift increases the risk of being involved in a drowsy driving crash by nearly six times.
Commercial Drivers: Commercial truckers often drive for many hours, often during the early morning and at night when sleepiness typically peaks. They also drive long distances, which puts them at an increased risk for falling asleep behind the wheel.
Young Drivers: Young people are more likely to be fatigued due to their lifestyle, which typically involves staying up late and not getting enough sleep. The FMCSA cites a study indicating that 55 percent of drivers in sleep-related crashes were 25 years old or younger.
What are the Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving?
The CDC suggests that drivers who experience signs of drowsy driving should pull over to take a 15 to 20 minute nap or switch drivers. Virginia drivers who notice any of the following signs should pull over to a safe place for a short rest before continuing on their trip:
- Drifting into another lane or hitting a rumble strip
- Drooping eyelids
- Frequent yawning
- Inability to remember the last few miles driven
- Missing an exit
How can I Prevent Drowsy Driving?
The NHTSA recommends drinking a cup of coffee or pulling over for a brief nap at the first signs of drowsiness; however, these are only short-term solutions. Those who drink coffee when sleep deprived may still experience microsleeps. The only way to truly protect oneself from the risk of fatigued driving is to get enough sleep. Experts recommend getting adequate sleep every night to avoid incurring a sleep debt. Additionally, drivers should avoid drinking alcohol or taking any drowsiness-inducing medications before driving.
Obtaining Compensation for Car Accident Injuries in Virginia
Drowsy driving is a common cause of preventable car accidents. Those who are injured in such accidents caused by another driver’s negligent actions may be eligible for compensation. In Virginia, a personal injury claim must be filed within two years of the accident, according to the statute of limitations. Additionally, Virginia personal injury laws may make it more challenging to recover than other states; the pure contributory negligence rule bars car accident victims who were even one percent at fault from recovery. It is important to seek assistance from a qualified car accident lawyer when filing a claim.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Advocate for Clients Injured by Drowsy Drivers
Being cautious around DST can reduce the risk of a car accident, but some collisions are unpreventable. If you were injured in a car accident that was caused by a drowsy driver, contact a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. Contact us online or call 757-LAW-0000 for a consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.