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Turning Back the Clock Creates Drowsy Drivers

Most people take two weeks to adjust to the time change, experts say

SATURDAY, Oct. 28, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- After Daylight Saving Time ends and the clocks are set back an hour on Sunday morning, there may be more drowsy drivers on roads and highways across the United States for the following few weeks, warns the National Road Safety Foundation (NRSF).

"Since night falls an hour earlier, the commute home from work or school will likely be in the dark. Also, the change of waking time coupled with earlier nightfall throws off our internal clock. It can take as long as two weeks for our bodies to adjust," Adele Kristiansson, NRSF director of marketing and legislative affairs, said in a prepared statement.

The NRSF is a nonprofit group that offers free driver-safety programs for schools and other organizations.

She said that many drivers fail to recognize the signs of drowsiness, which can be as dangerous as drinking and driving. Research shows that 60 percent of American motorists have driven while feeling sleepy, and more than a third admit to having falling asleep at the wheel within the previous year.

Drivers need to heed the following signs that they're getting drowsy:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, rubbing eyes.
  • Daydreaming or not remembering the last few miles driven.
  • Head snaps, yawning.
  • Drifting out of your lane, tailgating or hitting shoulder rumble strips.

Drivers who experience any of these signs need to pull over in a safe area to take a break and have a cup of coffee, a caffeinated snack, or a 20-minute nap, Kristiansson said. Drivers need to also remember that it takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream.

Drivers should also find out if any medications they're taking may cause drowsiness. And, of course, don't drink any alcohol before you drive.

This is the last year that Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the United States will end in October. Starting in 2007, DST will be extended by four weeks, starting on the second Sunday of March and ending on the first Sunday of November.

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more about more about drowsy driving.

SOURCE: National Road Safety Foundation, news release, Oct. 26, 2006
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