Editorial: Avoid driving drowsy

Even if you planned ahead and began preparing for the switch to daylight saving time this past weekend, it is still a good idea to take a little more care on the road because other drivers might not have done the same.

Last week, AAA Mid-Atlantic reminded motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving, something that increases this time of year when we have to get up an hour earlier than usual, at least until our bodies get used to the change.

In a press release, Ragina Cooper-Averella, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said, "While some believe 'just an hour' of lost sleep is not significant, many people who are already sleep deprived going into the weekend are more likely to be impaired from an attention and safety standpoint. A change in time can affect people physically and drivers can be more tired than they realize."

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year. The actual figure may be higher because police can't always determine with certainty when driver fatigue results or is a contributory factor in a crash.

The press release also cited a 2010 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study which showed "an estimated 17 percent of fatal crashes, 13 percent of crashes resulting in hospitalization, and seven percent of all crashes requiring a tow involve a drowsy driver."

The change in time also means that more people are out later in the day taking advantage of the additional daylight. That means more pedestrians, bicyclists, joggers and children that motorists need to be watchful for.

We should always a aware of the dangers of drowsy driving and make sure that we are well rested (or fully awake) before getting behind the wheel of our vehicle.

This time of year, when we move our clocks forward, keeping that thought uppermost in our minds can help reduce our chance of getting into an accident.