As clocks “fall back” this weekend and daylight saving time ends, many Americans will be driving longer at night which could translate to more driver fatigue and hazards on the road, says Virginia Tech Transportation Institute expert Jeff Hickman.
“Any time change can exacerbate drowsiness and your body may need a few days to adjust accordingly,” says Hickman.
Hickman offers some tips for drivers to avoid fatigue
1. Avoid driving during rush hour and from 2-4 a.m.
Crash risk increases during morning and evening rush hours and from 2-4 a.m. Driving between 2-4 a.m. is particularly dangerous because a person’s circadian rhythm is at its lowest during this timeframe. And when a driver is already sleep-deprived, the desire to sleep during the circadian low is even greater.
2. Get a full night’s sleep.
The night before a long trip, drivers should try to sleep at least seven to eight hours in order to avoid drowsiness. However, one night’s rest may not be enough for someone who has experienced several sleepless nights. In those cases, the driver will need several days of restful sleep to compensate for the sleep debt.
3. Pay attention to signs of drowsy driving.
Signs of drowsy driving include: slow eyelid closures, yawning, gentle swaying of the head, seat fidgeting, difficulty staying in your lane, difficulty maintaining speed, and delayed reactions.
4. Be aware of other factors impacting drowsy driving.
Situations that increase drowsiness are driving alone, monotonous road conditions (such as long straightaways with limited changes in the environment), long drives, and extended periods of heavy traffic.
Hickman leads the Behavioral Analysis and Applications Group at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on behavioral safety and health issues affecting commercial drivers, including a recent report on fatigue-related crashes for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. He has served as a scientific reviewer for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and currently serves as a reviewer for the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Accident Analysis and Prevention, Traffic Injury Prevention, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, and the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. Hickman’s Bio.
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