AAA warns motorists against drowsy driving

Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-14 07:59:23-04

CINCINNATI -- With daylight saving time kicking in Sunday, AAA is reminding drivers (who lost an hour's sleep) to not only adjust their clocks - but also their driving habits Monday morning to avoid drowsy driving.

Many drivers may have lost the spring in their step and not be fully alert as they travel to work and school in the dark. In the Tri-State area, the sun will rise at about 7:50 a.m. Monday and will not set until about 7:45 p.m.

The extra hour of daylight in the afternoon also means children, runners, cyclists and others will be out on the streets later. Slow down, pay attention and eliminate all distractions, and watch out for pedestrians when backing up in parking lots or out of driveways. 

“A change in time can affect people physically and drivers can be more tired than they realize,” said AAA Spokeswoman Cheryl Parker. “That lost hour of sleep can be a big deal, especially if we’ve been short on sleep over the weekend. Motorists need to prepare in advance for the time change by increasing sleep time in the days ahead and getting a good night’s sleep on Sunday.”

According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in such a crash as those sleeping eight hours or more, while people sleeping less than five hours increase their risk four to five times.

The foundation also finds more than 250,000 people fall asleep at the wheel, some for a just a microsecond. "When the clocks change — whether it is falling back or springing forward, peoples' sleep cycles are interrupted, and when sleep cycles are interrupted, they tend to be drowsy," said Parker, adding that some police departments have reported as much as a 10 percent increase in crashes during the spring ahead time change. Lack of sleep impairs driving ability, and driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as distracted and, in some cases, impaired driving.

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

The 2015 AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index revealed that nearly all drivers (97 percent) view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior; however, nearly one in three (31.5 percent) admit to driving when they were so tired that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open at some point in the past month.