By: Art Liggio, CEO and President of Driving Dynamics
For those of us who have reverted from Daylight-Saving Time to Standard Time, be careful! Unaccustomed to the early onset of darkness, drivers struggle as their internal clocks are trying to adjust, and even once that happens, there are still additional challenges. While it’s hard to believe that gaining an hour can put someone at risk, multiple traffic safety studies conclude that there is an increase in the average number of collisions following the end of Daylight-Saving Time. In particular, according to the National Road Safety Foundation, higher crash rates occur in the late afternoon due to the reduced visibility from an earlier sunset and drowsiness.
Not only does the change in sleep patterns and decreased visibility adversely affect drivers, but pedestrians suffer the consequences as well. Studies have shown that pedestrians are a high-risk group during this time of year. For instance, a study of nationwide traffic fatalities by Carnegie Mellon University included calculations on the risk per mile walked for pedestrians and found that the per-mile risk jumps 186 percent during October and November. (Fox News, 2015)
With the increased risk time change instigates for everyone on the road, it’s vital fleet drivers take the necessary precautions and maintain vigilance behind the wheel. To do so, here are a few reminders and tips that they should know and keep top-of-mind for a safer commute:
- Get to bed earlier. The body needs to adjust its sleep cycle to the time change, so limit that late-night television and get a good night’s rest to reduce the chances of fatigue.
- Don’t rush or get frustrated with increased traffic congestion. Other drivers are also trying to adjust to the changes in visibility, so understand the commute may take a bit longer than normal.
- Don’t overdrive the headlights on unlit streets and highways. Not only is it difficult to judge other vehicles’ speeds and distances at night, but the area past where the headlights illuminate the road ahead also causes a blind “crash area”. Slow down to a manageable speed to be able to safely stop the vehicle within the headlight coverage area.
- Extend your safety zone and be aware of what’s happening around the vehicle. Surrounding drivers are also struggling with the same transitional issues. Many are overtired, irritable and likely not operating their vehicles safely. Give others a little extra leeway and always provide yourself an escape route.
- Have sunglasses on hand. Sunsets are beautiful, but they can be deadly. As the sun sets, it beams light directly into the eyes and creates significant blind spots.
- Be seen. To increase awareness of your presence by others on the road (even if it’s still somewhat light out), vehicle lights should be on at all times. And, always use the blinkers—the earlier you signal, the easier it will be for drivers to safely respond.
- Refrain from distracted driving. While drivers should avoid distractions as regular safe driving practice, activities such as cellphone use, eating and drinking, while driving with limited visibility, raise the risk factor exponentially.
It’s easy to underestimate the impact of time change because it’s only a one-hour difference. However, as the statistics show, it creates increased danger for those operating a vehicle or even walking around. Fleet and safety professionals: ensure your drivers are prepared to deal with the effects this extra hour can have on physical and mental well-being and how to cope with the additional challenges that may arise, so everyone arrives safely at their destinations.