Seasonal Time Change Roadmap for Drivers
Teach Drivers to Navigate New Risks
Every year on the second Sunday in March, Texans move our clocks ahead one hour for daylight saving time. And every year on the first Sunday in November, like clockwork, we move them back one hour and return to standard time. All of that falling back and springing forward disrupts our natural sleep cycles.
The resulting fatigue, coupled with seasonal inclement weather and less morning/evening light, makes driving a risky proposition. Share these time change safety tips with employees who operate vehicles on school business.
Your body’s sleep cycle tells you to hit the hay when the sun is down and rise when it’s up. It can take longer than one week for your sleep cycle to sync with shifting light conditions in the morning or evening. You can ease the transition and stay alert behind the wheel if you:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule: Adults need seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. Going to bed and getting up at the same times year-round can help your body adjust to seasonal time changes.
- Take breaks. When traveling long distances for athletic contests, band competitions, or other school business, take breaks every two hours or 100 miles.
- Use caffeine wisely: It’s okay to turn to coffee, soda, and other caffeinated drinks for a short-term energy boost. Just remember that a “crash” often follows.
- Recognize the signs of fatigue: 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, which are unpredictable losses of consciousness that can last up to five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that’s 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.
When we transition between standard time and daylight saving time, we shift one hour of light between mornings and evenings. Darkness affects our depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision. Protect yourself and your passengers during darker commutes by following these tips:
- Practice 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 eyes. Looking from bright dashboard lights to dark roads can make it harder to see pedestrians, animals, and other vehicles. The same goes for looking into oncoming vehicle headlights. Dim your dashboard lights, and shift your eyes down to the lower-right side of the traffic lane to avoid being blinded.
- Comply with headlight regulations. The Texas transportation code requires drivers to turn their headlights on at night and when visibility is less than 1,000 feet. The law also requires you to use your low beams in certain situations
- Slow down. Drive at a speed that allows you to stop within your headlights’ visibility range, and approach crosswalks and intersections cautiously.
- Watch for wildlife. In Virginia, a deer crashed through a school bus window and landed on a student. The unlikely encounter reminds drivers to stay alert for animals. Texas logged the most deaths caused by collisions with animals during a 10-year study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Be especially cautious on dimly lit, two-lane highways. In fact, avoid them if possible.
Texas has seen its share of winter ice, snow, and sleet lately. During the spring, daylight saving time signals the start of storm season. Both time changes offer good opportunities to remind drivers about weather-related road hazards:
- Monitor tire condition. Buying the right tires for your climate and keeping them in good condition reduces the risk of slipping and sliding on slick roads. From there, you should rotate tires as recommended in the owner’s manual and regularly check air pressure and tread. For vehicles other than buses, check the owner’s manual or inside the driver's side door for the proper tire pressure. To check tread, use the penny test.
- 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 safely and on time.
- Don’t tailgate. The minimum suggested following distance in good weather is four seconds for buses and two seconds for passenger cars, pickups, and vans. Increase your following distance on snow, ice, and rain-soaked roads.
- Navigate skids. Accelerating and braking gradually will reduce the risk of a skid. If you lose control of the vehicle, gently turn into the skid, ease off the accelerator, and don't 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.
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David Wylie serves as content developer on the risk solutions team. He brings more than 20 years' experience writing educational content that helps employers protect against workplace accidents, property damage, cybercrime, and other losses.