It seems like just yesterday that we went back an hour to end Daylight Savings Time – yet this Sunday, we’re going right back to that schedule. That’s right: come Sunday, March 13, most states in the US will have to move their clocks forward one hour.
As clocks move forward, so too does your normal schedule. Beyond losing an hour of sleep on Sunday, Daylight Savings can be difficult to adjust to in the long-term, especially as mornings start earlier. When it’s still dark as you head to work, you’ll no doubt have issues keeping awake behind the wheel.
Even if you have a great routine and you’re a morning person, Daylight Savings Time can still be harsh on your morning commute. Here are some things to keep in mind.
The Impact of Drowsy Driving
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers. 55% of these crashes are caused by drivers less than 25 years old.
Drowsy driving can afflict everyone from the expected shift workers and overtime employees to commercial drivers to even business professionals. If you work a stressful job, or have had a stressful, exhausting day, chances are you may fall victim to drowsy driving.
How Can I Tell I’m Not Fit to Drive?
The National Sleep Foundation states that being awake for 18 consecutive hours is equal to a BAC of 0.08% – you essentially function behind the wheel just as well as someone who is legally drunk.
While 18 straight hours without sleep may seem excessive, consider that equates to 6 hours of sleep per night – which is considered an adequate amount of sleep by younger drivers and business professionals. You may be at risk of drowsy driving if you fit the following requirements:
- You’ve only slept for 6 hours or less the night previous
- You’ve been driving long distances without regular breaks
- You’re driving when it’s still dark out, or at a time when you’d normally be asleep
- You’ve been drinking small amounts of alcohol
- You’re driving alone
If this sounds like you when you get behind the wheel, look for these indications:
- Heavy eyelids, difficulty keeping them open
- Difficulty focusing on the road & frequent daydreaming
- Difficulty recalling the past few miles you’ve driven
- Feeling restless, irritable, and generally uncomfortable behind the wheel
If this sounds an awful lot like you during the morning commutes, you may need to adjust your schedule accordingly.
What Can I Do to Prevent Drowsy Driving in the Morning?
To reduce the chances of you getting behind the wheel while not fully awake, the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following precautions:
- Get a good night of sleep – experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults, and even more for teens.
- If you’re driving a long distance, get a partner – a fellow passenger can keep you honest and let you know when you’re physically unfit to drive.
- Schedule regular stops and breaks every 100 miles or two hours.
- Take a power nap – 15 to 20 minutes is recommended. Any longer and you may start falling into deep sleep.
- Grab a cup of coffee or your favorite caffeinated beverage – little known tip: most people think darker roasts of coffee are stronger, but it’s actually the lightest roasts that have the highest amounts of caffeine.
While there’s a good chance that absolutely nobody will be a morning person for the next couple weeks, these precautions can ensure that mornings don’t end up potentially dangerous as well.