Before the holiday season ramps up, there is something approximately 328 million Americans need to do—in unison. Every year on the first Sunday in November, residents of most states move their clocks back one hour. For drivers, there is fallout associated with “falling back.”
Fatigue, earlier sunsets, and the approach of winter increase the risk of traffic accidents this time of year. The Fund encourages you to share these tips with bus drivers, maintenance personnel, and anyone else who operates a vehicle while working.
Resolving the clock conflict
The return to standard time sparks a conflict between two kinds of clocks. Some of us will faithfully set the clocks on our phones, wrists, ovens, and microwaves back one hour promptly at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November each year. Meanwhile, our internal clocks—or circadian rhythm—won’t know or care.
Circadian rhythm is a natural process that tells us to sleep when it’s dark and rise when it’s light. Falling back disrupts that process because the sun rises and sets earlier. You can ease the transition into standard time if you:
- Get enough sleep: Adults need seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. The National Road Safety Foundation notes that it can take the body up to two weeks to adjust to a time change, so resist the temptation to stay up later.
- Use caffeine wisely: It’s okay to turn to coffee, soda, and other caffeinated drinks for a short-term energy boost, with two caveats:
- There is no substitute for a good night’s sleep.
- Remember that a “crash” often follows caffeine consumption.
- Recognize the signs: Yawning, missing road signs or turns, drifting into other lanes, and forgetting the last few miles driven are potential signs of fatigue. You should also be aware of micro sleeps, or unpredictable losses of consciousness that can last up to five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that is all the time it takes to travel more than 100 yards.
- Understand medication side effects: Prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause drowsiness. Some medications prohibit you from driving. Consult your doctor if you are unsure about a medication’s side effects.
Shedding light on nighttime driving hazards
Earlier sunsets during standard time mean some drivers will wrap up their day’s work in the dark. Although we do only one-quarter of our driving after the sun goes down, that is when 50 percent of traffic deaths happen, according to the National Safety Council. You can help reverse the trend if you:
- Commit to routine maintenance. Your headlights, taillights, and turn signals should be clean and crack-free. Dirty, dusty, streaked windows can cause glare when sunlight and headlights hit them, so keep them clean inside and outside.
- Protect your night vision: Looking from bright dashboard lights to the dark road can disorient you, making it harder to see pedestrians, animals, and other vehicles. The same goes for looking into oncoming vehicle headlights. Shift your eyes down to the lower-right side of your traffic lane to avoid being blinded.
- Comply with headlight regulations: In Texas, drivers must turn their headlights on from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise, or anytime visibility is less than 1,000 feet. The law also requires you to use your low beams when you are driving within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle; within 300 feet behind another vehicle; on lighted roads; and in fog, heavy rain, sleet, snow, or dust.
- Slow down: Speed was a factor in 20 percent of driving-related fatalities that happened at night during 2017, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Drive at a speed that allows you to stop within your headlights’ visibility range. Pedestrians and cyclists are harder to see at night, so approach crosswalks and intersections cautiously.
Preparing for winter weather
It feels premature to talk about winter when parts of Texas sit in the sweet spot between swimsuit and jacket season. But the return to standard time is a good time to prepare for ice, snow, sleet, and extreme temperatures:
- Winterize vehicles. The transportation shop should check batteries, fluid and oil levels, wipers, ignition systems, thermostats, headlights, hazard lights, exhaust systems, heaters, brakes, defrosters, and tire pressure and tread regularly, including before winter weather sets in. You should also make sure the vehicle you are driving has jumper cables, blankets, heat packs, and sand or cat litter in case you get stuck in the snow.
- Plan your trip: Check road conditions by visiting drivetexas.org or calling 800.452.9292. Speeding is especially hazardous on slick roads, so leave early enough to arrive on time without sacrificing your safety.
- Don’t tailgate: The minimum recommended following distance in good weather is four seconds for buses and two seconds for passenger cars, pickups, and vans. Increase the following distance on snow, ice, and rain-soaked roads.
- Navigate skids. Accelerating and braking gradually will reduce the risk of a skid. If you do lose control of the vehicle, gently turn into the skid, ease off the accelerator, and do not apply the brakes until you are back on course. Bridges, ramps, overpasses, and shaded areas are usually the first to freeze, so use extra caution.
Take advantage of the benefits of membership
Fund Workers’ Compensation program members benefit from employee training resources at no additional cost. Our new Safety Kit makes it easy for supervisors to teach safe-driving basics with their teams in about 15 minutes. Log into myTASB and download the Safety Kit as a traditional, hard-copy toolbox talk or as a PowerPoint for a visually appealing presentation.