BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s an unintended consequence of Daylight Saving Time: drowsy driving. Although underreported in government statistics, previous research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has estimated that 16% to 21% of all police-reported fatal vehicle crashes likely involve drowsy driving.
“Being drowsy while driving is a dangerous form of impairment, and it does not resolve or improve with continued driving,“ said Dr. David Yang, the foundation’s president and executive director. “Our goal is to help drivers learn to heed the early warning signs of drowsiness so they can stop, rest, and then continue their journey as safely as possible.”
Drowsiness refers to a state of increased tendency to fall asleep. Beyond the danger of falling asleep at the wheel, drowsiness also impairs drivers by reducing their alertness. Crashes caused by drowsy driving tend to be severe because the driver may not attempt to brake or swerve to avoid a collision, so the resulting impact occurs at a high rate of speed. A drowsy driver may also be startled and lose control of the vehicle.
The most common symptoms include:
• Having trouble keeping your eyes open
• Drifting from your lane
• Not remembering the last few miles driven
While the signs of drowsiness should never be ignored, drivers must not wait for their bodies to sound the alarm. You should prioritize sleeping at least seven hours before hitting the road.
AAA recommends that drivers:
• Travel at times of the day when they are normally awake
• Avoid heavy foods
• Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
For longer trips, drivers should:
• Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
• Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving
• Do not underestimate the power of a quick nap. Pulling into a rest stop and taking a quick catnap — at least 20 minutes and no more than 30 minutes of sleep– can help to keep you alert on the road.
Ali Touhey is an anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2023. View more of her work here.