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Time change can make for drowsy drivers

Monday - 3/12/2012, 9:59am  ET

crash accident Pennyslvania and Southern Aves. (WTOP/Meg ORourke)
Signs someone is a drowsy driver include missing road signsand struggling to focus on the road. (WTOP/Meg O'Rourke)

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Andrew Mollenbeck, wtop.com

WASHINGTON With the clock now set one hour ahead, many commuters will hit the road before dawn or as Yogi Berra once said, "It gets late early out there."

"Believe it or not, we do see an increase in the number of crashes that happen around the change to Daylight Saving Time," says Lon Anderson, a AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman.

Moving clocks forward just one hour can throw off a person's circadian rhythm, similar to jet lag. Light is the main factor that influences circadian rhythms. According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, it turns on and off the genes that control a person's internal clock.

"People's sleep patterns have changed, and therefore many more are driving sleepy."

Drowsy driving plays a part in about one in six deadly crashes, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

When it is light, the sun's glare can provide another challenge.

"As the time changes, so too does the sun in our eyes," Anderson says, noting the major east and west routes into the city.

AAA offers the following signs you may be driving drowsy:

  • Drifting out of your lane or hitting rumble strips
  • Struggling to keep eyes open and focused
  • Having wandering, disconnected thoughts
  • Missing road signs or passing an exit
  • Feeling irritable and restless

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