Research from the University of Colorado shows that fatal car accidents increase by six percent the week following daylight saving time (DST). That figure jumps to eight percent for those who live in the western part of the United States. The main reason for the increase is that the time switch can cause sleep deprivation, leading to drowsy driving accidents. Changing time in the spring accounts for 28 additional deaths each year, according to the study. It also has been shown to increase workplace injuries and aggravate some health issues.
The one hour time switch can make people feel foggy, tired, and sluggish for up to two weeks afterward, often causing traffic accidents due to drowsy driving. The following are some tips to help people spring forward safely when adjusting to DST on March 14 at 2:00 a.m.
Crucial Driving Tips for Spring Forward
During the week following DST, drivers should practice the following safety tips:
Ease into the time change. Make sure to get plenty of sleep in the days leading up to the time change to offset potential drowsiness. Try to go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for four to five days before the time switch. When the time change occurs, stay on schedule. The more a person can stick to a regular sleep schedule before and after DST, the quicker they can get used to the time change.
Avoid heavy meals and drinks just before bed. When a person feels drowsy after the time change, a heavy meal can increase sleepiness. Eat lighter meals until the drowsiness from the time change wears off. Also, avoid drinking a lot of liquids after 7:00 p.m. This can help prevent the need for nighttime urination, which contributes to lack of sleep. Do not drink alcohol or caffeine at night as well. Both can interfere with falling and staying asleep.
Limit the light at night. Light from the television and cellphone and other devices can keep a person from falling asleep. Keep the bedroom dark and cool since both are conducive to falling and staying asleep. During daytime, enjoy as much sunshine as possible before and after the time change.
Adjust the timing of daily activities. Eating dinner or showering earlier can help the body adjust to the new daylight and time. Also, take walks or exercise. If the time change has increased daytime drowsiness, being active can stave off the tired feeling and help the body adjust.
A driver that was in an accident that was caused by a drowsy motorist should contact a lawyer for a consultation.
How Do I Avoid Drowsy Driving After the Spring Time Change?
The one hour loss of sleep caused by the spring time change has a ripple effect. It can cause sleep deprivation, loss of sleep quality, and affect a person’s internal clock. Experts say that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. Both impair a person’s ability to assess changing road or traffic conditions and react quickly. Drowsiness may even cause a driver to fall asleep at the wheel.
Adjusting to the time change can take days or weeks and can lead to collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2017, 91,000 crashes involved drowsy drivers, leading to approximately 50,000 people injured and nearly 800 deaths.
Anyone can be susceptible to drowsy driving, especially after the spring time change. Most drowsy driving accidents occur in the late afternoon or overnight hours. According to experts, the following groups are vulnerable to drowsy driving accidents:
- Commercial drivers of semi-trucks, tow trucks, and buses who often travel overnight or for extended hours without taking required breaks.
- Those who work in the evenings and overnight.
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.
- Drivers who take medications that induce drowsiness.
- Those who drive long distances or who change time zones while driving.
- Drivers who get six hours of sleep or less each night.
Expert Tips to Avoid Drowsy Driving Crashes
The NHTSA recommends drivers do the following to prevent fatigue-related accidents:
Get enough daily sleep. Experts recommend at least seven or eight hours for an adult. Getting adequate sleep is the number one way to reduce drowsy driving crashes. Also, get enough sleep the night before a long car trip. Lack of sleep combined with driving on long stretches of road is a dangerous combination. Make sure teenage drivers get enough sleep as well. Inexperience and lack of sleep can pose a real danger.
Do not drive after a heavy meal. Certain foods increase drowsiness, and driving on a full stomach can cause sleepiness. Additionally, coffee and energy drinks can temporarily help with drowsiness, but they are not long-term solutions.
Avoid medications and alcohol before driving. If a prescription or over-the-counter medication causes drowsiness, a person should not get behind the wheel. They should call a friend, use a ridesharing service, get a taxi, or take public transportation. Also, avoid alcohol before driving. While no one should ever drink and drive.
One should stay vigilant for signs of drowsiness while driving:
- Crossing over road lines.
- Hitting a rumble strip.
- Tailgating the driver ahead.
- Being honked at by other drivers.
- Feeling drugged or having heavy eyelids, blinking frequently.
- Having difficulty focusing, daydreaming, and having rambling thoughts.
- Yawning repeatedly and rubbing one’s eyes.
- Fatigued drivers may suffer from microsleeps, which is falling asleep for a few seconds.
Pulling over for a rest break can help with drowsiness. Sometimes, even a quick nap or stroll outside can restore energy and alertness.
Can I Receive Compensation if I was Hit by a Drowsy Driver?
Typically, accident victims can expect to receive compensation for direct financial losses, such as medical costs, property damage, and lost wages. Compensation for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment and quality of life, may also be available.
If the drowsy driving accident was caused by a commercial vehicle, there could be substantial injuries or death, given the sheer size and weight of a commercial vehicle. In a truck accident case, various parties could be found liable, and compensation could be substantial.
A court may also award punitive damages to punish the negligent party. Virginia caps punitive damages at $350,000. However, it is important to note that Virginia applies the contributory negligence standard. Contributory negligence means that if the injured party is found to have contributed to the accident in any way, they cannot recover damages. That is one reason to consult with a car accident lawyer after a collision.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Fight for Victims of Drowsy Driving Collisions
The spring forward time change can make people feel exhausted for days or weeks afterward. DST can also lead to vehicle accidents and injuries. If you were hit by a drowsy driver, a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer can help you. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we have helped numerous car accident victims with their cases. Call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.