All the myriad days, weeks and months designated for this or that cause or awareness campaign might be enough to make you cross-eyed, but some should make you bolt upright and think about the message.
That’s the case this week with the AAA Carolinas’ reminder for motorists. And like many of these campaigns, the message is a perennial. National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week began Sunday and continues through this Sunday. It’s no coincidence that it ties right in with when we all set our clocks back an hour before hitting the hay on Saturday night or early Sunday morn.
“With fall activities in full swing and the end of daylight saving time, there is a greater risk for drowsiness behind the wheel,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson wrote in a press release. “We urge motorists to get the full recommended amount of sleep each night despite their busy schedules as drowsy driving is now involved in one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year.”
The symptoms of drowsy driving many of us already know or have experienced: Having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes and not remembering the last few miles driven. But AAA cautions that more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.
Sleep is the best prevention to fatigue-related wrecks as AAA notes that missing just one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep each day doubles — yes, doubles — the risk for a crash.
AAA Carolinas suggested the following to help drivers avoid crashes:
— Rest Up: Get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. If you do begin to feel drowsy while driving, pull over immediately and rest or call a family member or friend for assistance.
— Be prepared for morning/afternoon sun glare: Sun glare in the morning or late afternoon can cause temporary blindness. To reduce the glare, wear high-quality sunglasses and adjust sun visors as needed. Use of the night setting on rearview mirrors can reduce glare from headlights approaching from the rear.
— Car care maintenance: Keep headlights, taillights, signal lights and windows (inside and out) clean.
— Ensure headlights are properly aimed: Misaimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce visibility. And keep headlights on low beams when following another vehicle, so other drivers are not blinded.
— Reduce your speed and increase your following distances. It is more difficult to judge other vehicles’ speeds and distances at night.
— Be mindful of pedestrians and crosswalks. Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
The good news is that the auto industry is doing its part to curb drowsy driving, adding features that alert drivers when they might be falling asleep at the wheel, such as warnings when automobiles are drifting out of their lanes and collision warning systems.
While the safety advances manufacturers have devised are great, they are no guarantee and certainly should not be wholly relied upon. Applying common sense and getting that right amount of sleep should remain at the top of your driver to-do list.