When Daylight Savings Time comes to a close in November each year, clocks in the United States are turned back one hour. This instantly creates a dilemma of less sunlight and shorter days than the day before. As a result, more of the driving being done takes place in the dark. The evening commute home now takes place after the sun has gone down. Unfortunately, this means rush hour traffic must be navigated without the aid of sunlight and totally dependent on vehicle headlights and street lights along the way. Decreased visibility and nighttime driving combine to create a high risk of automobile accidents and injury to vehicle occupants and pedestrians.
Some estimates show 72 percent of pedestrian accidents that result in serious injury happen at night, with 78 percent of that number occurring in urban areas. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports a 3 percent rise in pedestrian deaths from automobile crashes in 2018, meaning 6,283 people lost their lives in this manner, more deaths than any year since 1990.
Because normal headlights only illuminate 500 feet with a high beam and 250 feet while on dim, the reaction time for a driver traveling at a high speed is very limited. Even though drivers may feel confident in their driving skills, their ability to identify obstacles in the road, especially dark ones, is drastically reduced at night due to the eye’s failure to adjust quickly after the glare of oncoming headlights.
Driving in Overcast Weather
Some drivers fail to recognize that overcast weather presents many of the same driving dangers as driving at night. No one considers it safe to drive at night without turning on headlights, but vast numbers of people can be found driving on dark and dreary overcast days with no headlights. When coupled with the fact that inclement weather conditions often accompany darker daytime skies, drivers could also be faced with wet, rainy road surfaces or even ice and snow to go along with the darkness. All of these factors exponentially raise the chances for a collision, so headlights are not optional on dark days.
Dangers of Fatigued Driving
Surprisingly, approximately 50 percent of adult drivers have admitted to driving while drowsy. Consider that an average adult needs to sleep between seven and nine hours daily. It may be shocking to find out that a driver who loses two hours of sleep reacts similarly to a driver who has consumed three beers. Statistics indicate that the risk of a fatigued driver being involved in a crash is three times higher than a rested driver.
According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 103 million drivers have dozed off while at the wheel, and 60 percent of the adults polled admitted to having driven while tired. Almost unbelievably, about 13 percent said that once a month they fall asleep when driving. About four percent have caused an accident by doing so. Reasons for falling asleep at the wheel vary from sleep disorders to shift work or long work hours. A lack of quality sleep and lengthy trips are also culprits.
Backing up these staggering figures are the 100,000 police-reported collisions each year caused by driver fatigue, per the NHTSA. These collisions resulted in at least 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths.
It is not easy to get accurate figures, however, as evidenced in a report produced by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that estimates 328,000 drowsy-driver collisions happen annually. Comparing this amount to the police-reported figure shows it is three times higher than law enforcement records indicate. The AAA study revealed that 109,000 of these crashes caused injuries and about 6,400 individuals lost their lives.
It is clear that everyone who is near a drowsy driver on the road is in danger. Here’s some eye-opening information:
- After 20 hours with no sleep, a driver’s behavior is the same as someone whose blood-alcohol concentration is 0.08%, legally drunk.
- The more drowsy drivers are, the worse their awareness of hazards, reaction times, and their ability to focus is.
- If a driver is fatigued, he or she is three times more likely to have an auto accident.
Driving Safely During Rush Hour
The increase in danger that accompanies driving during evening rush hour comes from crowded roads, hurrying to get home, and distracted drivers. Add to this mix the darkness of winter evenings, and it becomes a very dangerous recipe for potential collisions.
Safety Tips for Night Driving
- Drive with headlights an hour before sundown. Other drivers can see illuminated vehicles better.
- Keep brake lights and headlights in good working order. Check them periodically.
- Use high beams courteously. Do not blind other drivers.
- Lower dash lights to prevent glare on the windshield.
- Keep more distance between your car and the one in front of you.
- Slow down. Speeding shortens the available amount of reaction time.
- Don’t look straight at oncoming headlights. Instead, focus on the right side and toward the outer line on the roadway. Also, use the rearview mirror’s day-night feature, and keep a clean windshield.
- Stay clear of drifting or swerving drivers.
- Take breaks often on long trips.
- If needed, stop for a nap.
Seek Legal Counsel Today
Our experienced legal team at The Eichholz Law Firm has handled and investigated a number of car accident lawsuits for victims. While it is incumbent upon every person to drive safely and defensively, there are occasions when even the best evasive driving skills possible just aren’t enough to prevent a collision when another driver has fallen asleep at the wheel.
If you or a family member have been the victim of another driver’s negligent behavior, do not try to sort through the legal tangle yourself. Seek legal counsel immediately.