Skip to content

Time change can increase crash risk for fatigued drivers

Drivers and alarm clocks in B.C.’s North may both need adjusting when Daylight Savings Time kicks in on Sunday, March 10.

“Springing ahead” can disrupt sleep patterns, causing fatigue that affects drivers and increases the risk of crashing.

“Fatigue is a type of impairment that reduces a driver’s ability to notice, process, and correctly respond to hazards,” explains Trace Acres, program director for Road Safety at Work. “It’s a contributing factor in many crashes.”

Moving clocks ahead one hour can disrupt the circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Some people can lose sleep for several days as they adjust to the new schedule. The more sleep they lose, the more fatigued they feel.

When they get behind the wheel, fatigued drivers are more likely to take risks and forget or ignore normal safety routines, says Acres. They’re less able to judge distance, speed, and time. They’re also less able to absorb and respond to changes in traffic, signals, and road and weather conditions.

Wet roads or cone zones, for example, can be hazardous even when drivers are fully alert. When they’re fatigued, “reacting even a fraction of a second slower can result in a serious, costly crash,” he adds.

Fatigue can make driving at work even more dangerous

Whether commuting to work or driving for work, drivers have to be aware of other factors that can add to the fatigue risk.

Stress, insomnia, and some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can affect sleep and leave them tired. Driving back to the office after a gruelling day at the job site or heading home after a mentally taxing workday can be fatiguing too.

Thousands of people drive on the job around the region, either full time, part time, or occasionally. Whether it’s to pick up supplies, call on a client, or make deliveries, driving may be the most dangerous thing they do on the job. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of traumatic work-related fatalities in BC.

Employers are responsible for the safety of any employee who drives on the job because a vehicle used for work in B.C. is deemed to be a workplace.

Employers need to ensure employees are fit for driving and follow safe work procedures. Employees who are fatigued should alert their supervisor.

Adjusting sleep, driving routine can help

So what can drivers do to help combat fatigue?

In the days leading up to the time change and right after, go to bed early and aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly to adjust. And be more cautious on the roads on Monday morning. “Other drivers and pedestrians may be fatigued too,” Acres notes.

To reduce the risk of fatigue year round, Road Safety at Work recommends:

  • Try to schedule driving for earlier in the day when you’re likely to be less tired.
  • Break up long, monotonous drives with rest breaks.
  • Stay hydrated and keep energy levels up by drinking water and eating healthy meals and snacks.

“The safest trip is often the one you never make,” Acres notes. If you feel fatigued, postpone driving or use alternatives such as virtual meetings. And avoid distractions by putting away your phone.

For more tips on driving safely for work or pleasure, and for resources employers can use,

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *