One of the most anticipated “signs of spring” arrives this weekend when the clocks “spring forward” (Daylight Saving Time officially begins at 2 a.m. Sunday), and we lose an hour of sleep in exchange for extended daylight hours throughout the summer.
However, come next Monday morning, the commute will look very different for school students waiting for buses and motorists driving to work — in the dark.
“Most people will see a dramatic difference during their morning commute on Monday, as roadways remain darker longer, causing concern for pedestrians,” Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas, said. “Motorists need to be aware of these dangers, remain alert, and minimize distractions to reduce the risk of motor vehicle crashes, and pedestrians, including school students waiting at bus stops, should be extra careful as well.”
In addition to darker morning commutes, the time change can create another danger: interrupted sleep patterns and drowsy motorists.
Drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours daily. And with drowsy driving involved in more than one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year, AAA warns drivers that getting less than seven hours of sleep may have dangerous and deadly consequences.
Kansas Department of Transportation data from 2017 revealed that drivers being fatigued or falling asleep was cited as a contributing factor in 925 traffic crashes in the state.
In a AAA Foundation survey, nearly all drivers (97 percent) say they view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior. However, 29 percent admitted to driving when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open.
“A change in time can mean that drivers are more tired than they realize,” Steward said. “Drivers who miss just an hour or two of the recommended seven hours of sleep a night nearly double their risk for a crash.”