While the “spring forward” clock change creates a national sleep debt and leads to a spike in auto crashes, driver fatigue is a “life-threatening concern” at all times of the year, a federal safety official writes.
In a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blog entry posted on Thursday, Mark Rosekind, an NTSB member and an expert in sleep and fatigue science, highlights the dangers of driver fatigue after the switch to Daylight Saving Time and beyond.
On the Monday after the time change, there is a 17% increase in crashes on the nation’s roadways, according to Rosekind.
Throughout each year, he notes, an estimated 1 million highway crashes and near-misses are likely related to fatigue.
“Perhaps the most basic requirement for safely operating any vehicle is to be awake, and though necessary, just being awake is not sufficient,” Rosekind writes. “Safe travel requires every vehicle operator to have obtained optimal sleep and be wide-awake and maximally alert, every time.”
Rosekind points to a deadly accident near Miami, Okla., three years ago in which 10 people died when a truck plowed into seven cars and caused a massive pile-up.
“The driver suffered from a deadly combination of an altered work schedule, acute sleep loss and sleep apnea,” Rosekind writes. “He never even touched the brakes.”
The NTSB member also discusses actions that his agency and federal regulators have taken, adding that “reducing fatigue risks in transportation is everyone’s ongoing responsibility: companies, the government, individual operators and travel consumers.”
To read Rosekind’s blog post, go here.
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