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New AAA Northeast research shows Bay State evening commuters face greater drowsy driving crash risk after clocks roll back

    Massachusetts drivers, beware the weekday witching hour: AAA Northeast finds that in the four weeks following the fall time change, Bay State crash data compiled from 2010-2016 show a dramatic increase in weekday crashes involving motorists commuting between 5pm and 6pm.

     Research finds that the average number of 5 to 6pm crashes in Massachusetts per year during the 7-year span jumped from 581 the four weeks prior to the fall time change, to 907 crashes in the four weeks following the change—an increase of more than 55 percent.

     AAA Northeast also finds that crashes involving Bay State pedestrians more than tripled during the same 5 to 6pm time frame from 2010-2016, averaging ten incidents per year in the four weeks leading up to the clock roll-back, and spiking to an average of 35 pedestrian-related crashes in the four weeks after the change.

     “AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research tells us that in the weeks after we change the clocks, many people don’t sleep as well, and that can lead to drowsy driving, which poses a significant danger on our roadways,” says Mary Maguire, Director of Public and Legislative Affairs. “This week is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, and what was once called a silent killer now receives more attention than ever before as a factor in vehicle crashes.” 

      The difficulty in detecting drowsiness following a crash makes drowsy driving one of the most underreported traffic safety issues. 

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:

•    Drowsy drivers are involved in an estimated 21 percent of fatal crashes, up from 16.5 percent back in 2010.
•    37 percent of drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives.
•    An estimated 328,000 crashes each year nationwide involve a drowsy driver; 109,000 of those crashes involve serious injury and about 6,400 are fatal.
•    More than half of drowsy driving crashes involve drivers drifting out of their lanes or off the road.


With clocks rolled back and darkness arriving earlier this week, law enforcement historically reports an increase in the number of crashes. And with college applications due, exams looming, and sports practices in full swing, teenagers are identified as the most sleep-deprived segment of the population – logging an average of 6.5 hours of sleep each night, when their bodies actually require more than nine hours.

“This week – Drowsy Driving Prevention Week – is a great time for parents to talk with their teen drivers about the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel,” said Maguire. “As parents, we worry about a host of impairments that can endanger our kids – everything from drunk driving to cell phone use to texting. Drowsy driving is equally dangerous, especially for tired teens.”

AAA reminds parents to watch for signs of fatigue in themselves and in their young drivers. And remember the following tips:
•    Don’t drive when you’re sleepy.
•    If you feel drowsy, try to pull over immediately, park in a safe place, and nap for 20 minutes.
•    Travel with an alert passenger who can relieve you at the wheel if you feel tired.
•    Coffee, energy drinks, driving with windows open and radio blasting are not sleep substitutes.
•    Schedule a break every two hours or 100 miles.
•    Travel at times when you are normally awake. Sleeping less than six hours increases your risk of falling asleep at the wheel. Sleeping less than four hours is extremely dangerous. 

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