Car Safety Systems to Beat Daylight Saving Time Drowsiness | Edmunds

Car Safety Systems to Beat Daylight Saving Time Drowsiness

Sleep Is What You Really Need, but Tech Can Help


There are weather conditions and times of year that we know are more dangerous for driving. Rain and snow can increase stopping distances and decrease visibility. The Christmas and New Year's holidays carry a greater risk of traffic fatalities, according to the National Safety Council. But did you know that a time change — specifically daylight saving time — also poses risks for drivers?

It's true that we get longer days with daylight saving time, but that lost hour of sleep translates to more accidents on the road, according to some research into the effects of the time change, including a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. As a driver, you can compensate by getting some more sleep and being more vigilant on the road during the weeks at the start of daylight saving time, which arrives this year on Sunday, March 12, at 2 a.m. Car technology also can help you out.

Car Safety Systems

Among the most helpful kinds of safety systems are the increasingly common drowsy driver warning systems. These relatively new systems can monitor all sorts of inputs, from steering correction to the amount of time spent on the road without a break. With the data they collect, the systems can chime in and recommend a rest stop. Mercedes-Benz signals this with a small coffee icon on the dashboard, recommending a "pause." BMW has a similar system in its ConnectedDrive suite: The Active Protection feature warns you if it detects signs of fatigue.

Car Safety Systems

Another manufacturer with an available drowsy-driver system is Volvo. It offersDriver Alert Control, which prompts you to take a break while driving. It can even give suggestions on where to stop. According to Volvo: "A camera detects the side markings painted on the [road] and compares the section of the road with the driver's steering wheel movements." The driver gets an alert if the vehicle does not follow the road evenly, an indicator that the driver is inattentive or perhaps falling asleep.

Slightly less sophisticated systems — such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning and parking sensors — also can help if you're less alert than usual in the wake of the time change. Those systems typically set off an alarm, a beep or a seat vibration to tell you of a potential danger — and the possible need to get off the road for a rest.

Car Safety Systems

The technology called active safety goes a step further. If a car has stopped short in front of you, for example, a forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking will apply the brakes for you. Lane keeping assist will nudge the steering wheel to keep you in your lane if you begin to drift over the line.

Finally, there are the simpler systems to back you up after the time change, such as automatic headlights. If you're used to leaving work at 5 p.m. when it's still light out, you might forget to turn your headlights on when the time changes. With automatic headlights (and optional items such as automatic high beams), you're much less likely to be driving around in the dark. To see how well the headlights of a particular car light up the road, you can always check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's site. The IIHS tests headlights and uses its performance as a factor in its safety ratings.

Regardless of the safety systems your car has, it's a good idea to have a strategy to prevent the time change from getting the better of you. Go to bed earlier until you adjust. On longer drives, switch drivers, take a nap at a rest stop, or grab a cup of coffee for that final leg of your journey — whatever it takes to make sure you aren't dozing off while you're on the road.

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