Drowsy driving can be deadly, so beware after the time change Sunday

DES MOINES — With the switch to Daylight Saving Time this weekend, some Iowans may be starting next week out sleepy from that lost hour of shut-eye. AAA Iowa spokesman Brian Ortner says a new motor club study finds driving while drowsy can be dangerous, and even deadly.

“This recent study is based on in-depth crash investigation and national fatal crash data,” Ortner says, “and it estimates that drowsy driving is a factor in roughly ten times as many traffic fatalities as traditional crash data may indicate right now.”

The study finds drowsy drivers were involved in 18-percent of all traffic fatalities between 2017 and 2021, accounting for nearly 30,000 deaths. Ortner suggests Iowans try to get a nap on Sunday afternoon to help catch up on their sleep before Monday morning, especially if they have a lengthy commute.

“Some signs that you’re too drowsy to drive are probably the key indicators that maybe you shouldn’t get behind the wheel,” Ortner says, “if there’s frequent yawning or blinking, if you have trouble remembering the past few miles, you’re missing your exit, you’re drifting from your lane.”

Whether you’re driving to work or taking the family on a road trip, Ortner says it’s vital that you stay alert or get off the road.

“Drowsiness impairs drivers in a lot of different ways. It can reduce alertness, it can impair your judgment,” Ortner says. “It may cause those hazardous micro-sleeps, and I think we’ve all had those where you catch yourself nodding and wake up, and then self-perception of drowsiness. A lot of drivers underestimate their own drowsiness and they’re putting themselves and others are at risk.”

He says sleep deprivation increases a driver’s risk of making mistakes that can lead to crashes. The AAA study finds those deprived of sleep by four or more hours have an impairment similar to those who are over the legal blood-alcohol limit.