U.S. daylight-saving time will end at 2 a.m. Sunday when clocks are set back one hour. The time change can cause disturbed sleep patterns, and when combined with the earlier dusk and darkness during the evening commute, become a formula for drowsy driving, according the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Traffic Safety Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana.
A study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety completed in November 2014 found the impact of having drowsy drivers on the road is considerable. Drowsy drivers are involved in an estimated 21% of fatal crashes, up from 16.5% from the previous 2010 study, as most drivers drift out of their lanes or off the road. Drivers themselves are often crash victims who die in single-car crashes.
In Los Angeles County in 2012, there were 6,954 fatal and injury nighttime collisions from 9 p.m. to 2:59 a.m., prime hours for driving under the influence, speeding and drowsy driving, according to CHP data.
The Auto Club recommends that motorists be sure they are well rested, adjust their driving habits and also watch for children and others outdoors who will be less visible, especially during the first weeks of the time change.
In addition to setting clocks back one hour, motorists should be prepared for reduced visibility on the road. “Drivers can expect reduced visibility because the evening commute time will be darker,” said Lorz Villagrana. “Teen drivers who aren’t as experienced with nighttime driving and motorists with vision issues may need to be especially careful.
“Before the time change, you may need to check to make sure all vehicle lights are working properly. When starting your commute, remember to turn on your headlights and then turn them off when you reach your destination,” Lorz Villagrana said. “In addition, motorists should be prepared to face changed conditions during the morning commute.”
The morning sun may cause reflections off car windows, hoods or other metallic portions of automobiles and can be a serious hazard to drivers and pedestrians, according to Lorz Villagrana. “The glare may cause temporary blindness. To reduce glare, invest in and wear high-quality sunglasses and adjust your car’s sun visors as needed,” she added.
Late afternoon driving also presents a similar glare problem, so the same recommendations apply. “Drivers can also use the night setting on the rearview mirror to avoid glare from oncoming headlights,” she said.
In addition, children, pedestrians, joggers, walkers and bicyclists likely will continue to be outside but will be a lot less visible during the evening commute. The Auto Club recommends that motorists slow down and be extra alert, particularly in residential neighborhoods and school zones. Motorists should provide bicyclists with a three-foot buffer for safety, according to a 2014 law. It also requires them to slow to a safe and reasonable speed when passing a bicyclist if they can't get three feet away.
The Auto Club recommends the following tips for pedestrian safety:
- See and be seen –drivers need to see you to avoid you
- Make eye contact with drivers when crossing streets
- Wear bright colors or reflective clothing at night
- Carry a flashlight when walking or walking pets in the dark
- Walk on the sidewalk. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
Recommendations for drivers:
- Motorists should be well-rested.
- Drivers should anticipate changing light conditions, especially during the first week of the time change.
- To reduce glare, invest in and wear high-quality sunglasses.
- Motorists should watch for children and families in neighborhoods and school bus routes, at intersections, and when backing out of driveways.
- Remember to turn on lights during dusk or semi-dark hours.