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NHTSA Cautions Drivers, Pedestrians With End of DST

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Bernal Traffic at dusk

Driving at dusk

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urges drivers and pedestrians to be especially alert now that Daylight Saving Time (DST) has ended, because with darkness falling earlier, there is more risk of traffic accidents, as the agency says in a press release. The change in daylight hours can catch some drivers by surprise, NHTSA writes, with sun glare or darkness taking place during different parts of a commuter’s typical route. In addition, the end of DST affects sleep patterns, so drivers need to be aware of their need for rest and the harmful effects lack of sleep can have on driver attention and fatigue, NHTSA writes.

As the blog points out, “It’s not a coincidence that Drowsy Driving Prevention Week® occurs as daylight saving ends this year.” Although “falling back” provided an extra hour of sleep last Saturday night, many people are not able to take advantage of that, writes Anthony Komaroff, M.D., editor in chief of Harvard Health Publications. “And the resulting shift in the body’s daily sleep-wake cycle can disrupt sleep for several days,” he writes.

Twilight is one of the most difficult times to drive because a driver’s eyes have to adjust to the increasing darkness, as Ragina C. Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs, says in a Baltimore News Journal article. The Esurance blog informs us that, according to the National Safety Council, traffic fatalities are three times greater at night than during the day. They add:

Think about it: ninety percent of your reaction time depends on your ability to see what’s around you. And since your depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision decrease after sundown, your chances for a car accident tend to increase.

Pedestrians need to be especially careful, as most pedestrian traffic deaths occur after sundown, and this group was among the few categories of road users in which deaths rose in 2011, up 3% from 2010, reports NHTSA’s Safety in Numbers newsletter.

As Averella says: “Pedestrians need to remember that motorists may not always see them at night or in the morning and late afternoon as motorists fight sun glare.” Safety in Numbers notes that NHTSA defines a pedestrian as any person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, in a wheelchair, sitting or lying down.

NHTSA offers the following safety tips for the end of Daylight Saving Time:

For Drivers:

  • Slow down. During the evening hours, you need more time to see a pedestrian in your path.
  • Keep in mind that pedestrians who are wearing headphones, hats or earmuffs may not hear your vehicle as it approaches.
  • Keep your windshield, windows and mirrors clean. Make sure your defrosters and windshield wipers are working properly and that washer fluid is replaced as needed.

For Pedestrians:

  • Carry a flashlight or attach reflective materials — such as fluorescent tape — to clothing, backpacks, purses and briefcases. These materials reflect light from headlights back to drivers, making it easier to see you.
  • Don’t depend on the traffic signal to protect you. Motorists may be distracted, especially when adjusting to the nighttime travel environment.
  • Avoid jaywalking and crossing between parked vehicles. Crosswalks offer a safer alternative.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If you must walk on the street, face traffic.
  • When crossing the street, look left-right-left for cars from the curb.
  • Do not cross the street if a car is coming and use a crosswalk if available.
  • Watch out for cars at every driveway and intersection.
  • Stay completely focused on the road and avoid distractions.

Image by donjd2 (Don DeBold), used under its Creative Commons license.


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