Fall driving: Don’t get left in the dark

By Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

Are you looking forward to that extra hour of sleep this weekend? You’ll feel refreshed, more alert and aware with that extra rest.

Maybe not.

Studies show there is generally an increase in the average number of collisions during the late-afternoon commute in the two weeks following the end of daylight saving time.

When the clock moves back an hour, sunset also comes earlier, and many people will find themselves spending more time driving in the dark.

Since our bodies’ internal clocks tell us to sleep when it’s dark, it stands to reason early nightfall makes us more prone to drowsy driving – especially as we adjust to evening commutes during the first week of the time change.

Along with drowsy driving, the darker driving conditions decrease visibility and increase the chances for a car accident.

In fact, the risk of a fatal crash is three times greater at night, according to the National Safety Council, so it is very important for drivers to be prepared when daylight saving time ends and the evenings become darker earlier.

So be prepared for the time change with these driving safety tips:

  • Prep your car for nighttime driving. It may be common sense, but it bears repeating. Check and clean your headlights, taillights, brake lights, and signal lights. After all, you want to see and be seen by other drivers on the road.
  • Be extra cautious. Slow down to compensate for limited visibility and reduced stopping time. Also, keep in mind that pedestrians of all ages, joggers and bicyclists will be less visible during dusk and after-dark hours. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, the number of fatal crashes involving pedestrians in Ohio has risen in recent years and the majority of those deaths happen at night. That’s exacerbated by the end of daylight saving time, as the number of daylight hours shrinks. Last year, November accounted for 18 percent of Ohio’s pedestrian deaths and only 22 percent of the total happened during the day.
  • Get rest. Make sure you get the proper amount of sleep each night to try and avoid drowsy driving and avoid the temptation to stay up extra late this Saturday night – even if you do get that bonus hour.
  • Watch out for animals on the road. Deer and other animals are most active at night, and since more deer-related collisions occur in November than any other month, be extra careful in the weeks following daylight saving time.

One more consideration: This week a new distracted driving law went into effect in Ohio and fines for the offense increased to $100 after deadly statistics for accidents continue to climb across the country. Just one more reason to pay attention to the road!

So, don’t forget to set your clocks back this weekend, enjoy that extra hour of sleep and stay safe while driving in the coming weeks.

Check out BeSafeOhio.com for more driving safety tips, and avoiding common injuries at home and in your workplace.

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