Daylight Savings Means More Driving in the Dark

So you're probably getting ready to change your car's clock in preparation for daylight saving time this weekend, but have you prepared yourself for the new drive time?

Turning the clocks back an hour means commuters will be spending much more time driving in the dark — something a lot of us haven't had to do much of for months.

While a little darkness doesn't sound like a big deal, it'll be harder to see and easier to fall asleep at the wheel, especially after a long day at work. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that each year 100,000 crashes reported to police are caused by drowsy driving or driver fatigue. It takes its toll on pedestrians, too. NHTSA reports that more than half of all fatal pedestrian crashes involving children ages 5 through 18 occur in low light or dark conditions.

"Motorists need to remember to use their headlights as dusk arrives and be on the lookout for bicyclists, pedestrians and deer. Bicyclists and pedestrians also should make themselves as visible as possible by wearing bright- or light-colored clothing and using lights and/or reflective vests as appropriate," said Cliff Braam, U.S. Department of Transportation traffic safety specialist, in a statement.

Use the following safety tips from the Department of Transportation to make sure you see and are seen on the road.

Tips for Drivers
  • Check all vehicle lights to ensure they work properly: headlights, parking lights, turn signals/emergency flashers, brake lights, tail and marker lights, interior lights and instrumentation lighting.
  • Check your mirrors and make sure they're crack-free.
  • Make sure your vehicle's headlights are aimed properly. To do this, shine the headlights on a wall about 25 feet away. If one light is higher than the other, the aim needs to be adjusted.
  • Use the night setting on your rearview mirror to avoid glare from headlights.
  • Be courteous with your high beams. Switch them over as oncoming vehicles approach.
  • Drive cautiously. Be alert and watchful for bicyclists and pedestrians on the roadside, as well as at crosswalks. They may not see or hear you coming.
  • Supervise small children as they enter and exit the vehicle, especially when parking on a street. Make them use a curbside door away from traffic.
  • Make sure to remove sunglasses at dusk — drivers often forget they are wearing them.
  • Keep your eyes moving from side to side while driving instead of focusing on the center line or the road ahead. This keeps your eyes adjusted to the dark and helps avoid "highway hypnosis," a state which impairs reaction time.
  • Be sure you are well-rested. Do not drive if you feel drowsy.

Tips for Pedestrians

  • Wear brightly colored clothing or reflective gear that is easily illuminated by a vehicle's headlights.
  • Use crosswalks. Do not jaywalk.
  • Always look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Walk on sidewalks when possible, facing oncoming traffic.

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Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan.  Email Jennifer

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