Traffic crashes increase on the Monday after Daylight Savings
This weekend marks that dreaded time when we push our clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Savings Time. Other than the inconvenient loss of an hour’s sleep, there can be more drastic implications.
According to a McMaster University study called “Sleep Deficit, Fatal Accidents and the Spring Shift to Daylight Savings Time,” traffic crashes during the Monday following the weekend of turning the clock ahead one hour increased by a significant 17 per cent compared to the average Monday.
The researchers also noted that most of the collisions were occurring in the afternoon.
Even though your watch may say it’s a certain time, your body is still on the old schedule and may think it’s time to slow down and relax. This little hiccup to your circadian rhythm is enough to slow your reflexes and decision-making ability just when you need them at their most efficient — while driving.
Now that we know there is an issue with traffic safety on the Monday following Daylight Savings, how can we avoid becoming another statistic?
Just being cognizant that there lurks an added danger is a good start. On your drive home, use some extra effort at staying focused on the task of driving.
Fifteen minute power naps have been shown to help revitalize your energy. However, I certainly do not recommend this power nap while driving home. Before leaving work, take a 15-minute break, close your eyes and let your body and mind relax and recoup.
If you are a coffee drinker and a cup of java gives you that perk to keep you going, maybe one for the road on Monday afternoon may just give you enough of a caffeine buzz to help you stay more alert on the afternoon drive home.
Many commuters use the same route to and from work each day to the point where boredom sets in. Seeing the same scenery every day can lead to “driving by rote,” in which the driver pretty much just goes through the motions. There is no thought required to think of directions or turns. This ennui contributes to drowsiness, as the driver’s brain is not required to simply follow the mass of vehicles on the migration home.
If you commute alone, there is a greater chance of you nodding off behind the wheel. Opening a window while driving can infuse the vehicle with cold fresh air and help you to stay more alert. Adjust your driver’s seat more upright. Most drivers tend to recline the driver’s seat too much for comfort. Keeping it more upright will give you better access to your controls while making it a little more difficult to drift into a state of drowsiness.
Instead of staying up late on the Friday and Saturday of the Daylight Savings weekend, go to bed earlier to help your body adjust sooner. This can help reduce the effects on the Monday.
If you have been leaving for work around 7 a.m. each day for the last week or so, you will have noticed you were driving into work in daylight after that long dark winter. But on Monday, your drive will be in darkness again so be both mentally and physically ready for this change before leaving. Slow down, as your field of vision will be reduced by the darkness.
If you have been heading for home in the late afternoon as it starts to get dark, Monday afternoon will see you driving in daylight. Having a pair of sunglasses at the ready would be a good idea, especially if you are headed west.
Monday may be a good day to take public transit to allow yourself another day to adjust and to avoid being on the road with the other motorists who haven’t adjusted.
Taking a vacation day on Monday will also keep you away from the drowsy drivers and give your body time to correct to Daylight Savings. Sounds like a good reason for another national holiday!
Fatigue is a form of impairment. Both your reflexes and your ability to make sound and safe judgments about your driving environment are compromised. Most fatigue-related crashes happen between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. and again between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Here are a few signs of driving under the influence of fatigue. If you experience these symptoms, pull over at a safe location, have a rest or at least walk around the vehicle to get your heart rate up and your blood oxygenated again.
• Yawning often.
• Inability to keep your eyes focused and your head up.
• Wandering, disconnected thoughts.
• Driving the past few kilometres without remembering them, which is also known as “road amnesia.”
• Drifting between lanes, tailgating or missing traffic signs.
• Noticing a vehicle in the rear view mirror or beside you that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Article by Ian Law – Special to the Toronto Star
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