With the end of Daylight Saving Time, motorists need to prepare for related changes during their commutes. AAA warns motorists to be prepared for sun glare during their morning commute and earlier darkness and reduced visibility on the road during their evening commute.
“Ninety percent of drivers’ reaction time depends on their vision, which is severely limited at night,” said AAA spokesman Jim Lardear. “Motorists should focus on night driving safety measures the moment the sun sets. It’s one of the most challenging driving times because motorists’ eyes frequently adjust to the increasing darkness.”
AAA recommends wearing high-quality sunglasses and adjusting the car’s sun visors as needed. Late afternoon driving also presents a similar glare problem, so drivers should take the same precautions. Using the night setting on rearview mirrors can reduce glare from headlights approaching from the rear.
The time change can disturb sleep patterns. Combined with the earlier dusk and darkness during the evening commute, it becomes a formula for drowsy driving and fatigue-related crashes.
Sleep-deprived drivers cause traffic crashes that can lead to death and debilitating injuries on American roadways yearly. Research by the AAA Foundation estimates that drowsy driving is a factor in an average of 328,000 crashes annually, including 109,000 crashes that result in injuries and 6,400 fatal crashes.
“While many will enjoy an extra hour of sleep this weekend, few commuters and motorists realize the added dangers that can come as the result of a time change – especially when they are behind the wheel,” continued Lardear. “Although we gain an hour of sleep, our sleep patterns are disrupted. This can result in drowsy driving episodes, and driving is unsafe when we are sleepy.”
Symptoms of drowsy driving can include having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes, or not remembering the last few miles driven. However, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.
Motorists are also urged to be more cautious of deer sightings and crashes. November and December are among the most dangerous months of the year for motor vehicle collisions with animals. A collision with a deer or other animal can put a serious dent in your vehicle, if not destroy it completely, and could result in serious injuries or fatalities.
AAA tips for drivers:
- Get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. If you do begin to feel drowsy while driving, pull over immediately and rest or call family members, friends, or 911 for assistance.
- Reduce speed and increase following distances
- Turn on your headlights to become more visible during early morning and evening hours.
- Keep vehicle headlights and windows (inside and out) clean.
- Do not use high beams when other cars or pedestrians are around.
- Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
AAA tips for pedestrians and bicyclists:
- Cross only at intersections. Look left, right, and left again, and only cross when it is clear. Do not jaywalk.
- Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
- Evaluate the distance and speed of oncoming traffic before you enter the street.
- Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking or biking near traffic at night. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
- Avoid distracted walking. This includes looking at your phone or listening to music. If you must listen to music, make sure it is at a low volume so you can hear danger approaching.
- Bicycle lights are a ‘must-have item for safe night riding, especially in winter when it gets dark earlier.
AAA tips to help prevent a crash or to reduce damage from an animal collision:
- Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.
- Keep your eyes moving back and forth. Continuously sweep your eyes across the road in front of you for signs of animals and movement. Animals may also be alongside the road, so look to the right and left. While the most likely crash is you hitting an animal, on occasion, they might also hit you by running into the side of your car.
- Be especially attentive in the early morning and evening hours. Many animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. – prime commuting times for many people.
- Use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic. You can spot animals sooner. Sometimes the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.
- Slow down, and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone, so if you see one, there are likely to be more nearby.
- Slow down around curves. It’s harder to spot animals when going around curves.
- One long blast. A long blast on your horn may frighten animals away from your vehicle.
- Resist the urge to swerve: Instead, stay in your lane with both hands firmly on the wheel. Swerving away from animals can confuse them, so they don’t know how to run. It can also put you in the path of oncoming vehicles or cause you to crash into something like a lamppost or a tree.
- If the crash is imminent, take your foot off the brake: during hard braking, the front end of your vehicle is pulled downward, which can cause the animal to travel up over the hood toward your windshield—letting off the brake can protect drivers from windshield strikes because the animal is more likely to be pushed to one side of the vehicle or over the top of the vehicle.
- Always wear a seatbelt. The chances of getting injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you don’t have your seatbelt on