Take care while driving

With Daylight Savings Time ending Nov. 2, AAA Mid-Atlantic reminds drivers to be prepared for potential challenges, such as changes in sleep patterns that may increase chances of drowsy driving and shorter days which means driving home in the dark.

Sleep-deprived drivers cause more than 6,400 deaths and 50,000 debilitating injuries on American roadways each year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Delaware State Police reports that in 2018, drowsy drivers were a contributing factor in 6,646 crashes in Delaware, resulting in 12 fatalities and more than 1,300 injuries.

“While many will enjoy an extra hour of sleep this weekend, few commuters and motorists realize the added dangers that can come as the result of a time change — especially when they are behind the wheel,” said Ken Grant, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Although we gain an hour of sleep, our sleep patterns are disrupted. This can result in unsafe drowsy driving episodes.”

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index data shows that most motorists — 96 % — identify drowsy driving as very or extremely dangerous. Yet, despite high rates of perceived danger and personal/social disapproval regarding drowsy driving, about 27% of drivers admit to having driven while being so tired that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open, at least once in the past 30 days. Previous research by the AAA Foundation estimates that drowsy driving is a factor in an average of 328,000 crashes annually, including 109,000 crashes that result in injuries and 6,400 fatal crashes.

“Drivers should not rely solely on their bodies to provide warning signs of fatigue and should instead prioritize getting plenty of sleep in their daily schedules and simply be aware that the shorter days this time of year can create more drowsiness behind the wheel,” said Grant.

“Everyone needs to remember that as daylight fades sooner, pedestrians walking on the roadway may not be visible,” said Cynthia Cavett, marketing specialist and public information officer, Delaware Office of Highway Safety. “Do your due diligence and remain alert for pedestrians, especially in the early morning hours and in the evening. For those walking at night, wear a brightly colored jacket or shirt, carry a flashlight and wear some kind of reflective material. Remember, you are vulnerable when you are walking or bicycling. Assume drivers can’t see you and walk/ride defensively.”

Gov. John Carney signed Senate Bill 73 into law in August. According to the new law, if Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey enact similar legislation, Delaware would begin the process of placing itself in the Atlantic Standard Time Zone on the first Sunday in November and the state will remain in that time zone full time.

AAA Mid-Atlantic offers these tips for drivers:

— Slow down.

— Turn on headlights to become more visible during early morning and evening hours.

— Keep vehicle headlights and windows, inside and out, clean.

— Do not use high beams when other cars or pedestrians are around.

— Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.

AAA Mid-Atlantic offers these tips for pedestrians and bicyclists:

— Cross only at intersections. Look left, right and left again and only cross when it is clear. Do not jaywalk.

— Cross at the corner, not in the middle of the street or between parked cars.

— Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. If no sidewalk exists, walk facing traffic.

— Evaluate the distance and speed of oncoming traffic before stepping into the street.

— Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if walking or biking near traffic at night. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.

— Avoid listening to music or make sure it is at a low volume to hear danger approaching.

— Bicycle lights are a must-have item for safe night riding, especially during the winter months when it gets dark earlier.