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The driving risks associated with daylight saving time

Sioux Falls auto accident attorneyDaylight saving time is less than a month away. This means that on Sunday, November 3, residents of greater Sioux Falls can expect to get an extra hour of sleep before returning to work the following Monday. Think you won't be tired in the days that follow? Think again. Drivers should be aware that crash rates generally spike after daylight saving time — both in the spring and fall.

Each year in the United States, about 800 people are killed in crashes caused by drowsy driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Another estimated 50,000 people are injured. It's important to understand how much of a roll disrupted sleep schedules are factored into the number of serious crashes caused by drowsiness.

How time changes translate to drowsy driving

When we turn our clocks back in the fall or forward in the spring, our circadian rhythm (natural internal clock) has to adjust to the changes. People who travel across different time zones experience a similar effect called jetlag.

For example, if you're vacationing in Europe for a week, your circadian rhythm would need to catch up to the time change both when you arrive and when you return home.

According to Jeff Hickman, a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute research scientist, adjusting to daylight saving time can take "a few days to a week." During this time period, drivers may experience drowsiness on the road due to the disruptions in their normal sleep schedule.

The one-hour time change isn't the only factor that impacts our internal clock. After daylight saving time, the sun will set one hour earlier than it normally does. That means more people will be driving in the dark.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, when we're exposed to darkness, our eyes signal the hypothalamus (a part of the brain responsible for hormone production) to release melatonin. Melatonin is not just an over-the-counter sleep supplement, it's a naturally-occurring hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles.

Be prepared to make adjustments for safer driving

In order to make the adjustment easier and safer, Dr. Alon Y. Avidan, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, suggests doing the following:

  • Change all clocks before going to sleep on Saturday night.
  • Go to bed an hour later than you usually would on Saturday night.
  • Avoid sleeping in on Sunday morning, as this will make it difficult to fall asleep at your usual time.
  • Avoid consuming caffeinated beverages on Sunday morning so you may easily fall asleep on Sunday night.
  • Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages or foods that can affect your sleep schedule.
  • Get exercise and get outside the day before and after daylight saving time to help reset your internal clock.
  • Avoid taking supplements or medication that induces sleep. Let your internal clock adjust naturally.
  • Wind down and engage in relaxing activities before bedtime.

If you were hurt in a crash with a drowsy driver, you may be entitled to compensation by pursuing a legal claim. Before you take any course of action, you should first speak to an experienced Sioux Falls car accident attorney who can help you explore your legal options. To set up a free consultation, contact Northern Plains Justice, LLP online.

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