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End of daylight saving time brings challenges on the road

Daylight saving time comes to an end at 2 a.m. on Sunday, and the N.C. Department of Transportation reminds drivers, cyclists and pedestrians that they need to pay extra attention to the change in traveling conditions.

Moving the clocks back one hour means that during late afternoon and early evening commutes, traffic will take place at dusk or in darkness.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving either just before sunrise or immediately at dusk are the most dangerous time periods on the roadways, and traffic fatalities are three times more likely to take place.

In North Carolina, November averages more crashes than any other month. In November 2015, there were 25,296 crashes reported. More than 20 percent of crashes in the state last year took place in November and December.

A key problem is that while the sky is still lit, the roads begin to get dark. This causes a disparity between light and dark, creating vision problems for some drivers.

Glare from the rising or setting sun and from headlights in the darkened afternoon poses another problem, as it reduces the ability to see clearly. It can increase reaction time because of its three to five second effect on vision, which may cause drivers to suddenly slow down or drift in their lane.

There are ways to deal with the changing conditions. For drivers, tips include:

  • Protect your eyes from glare and take the time for them to adapt to darkness before driving;
  • Adjust the rearview mirror to the “night” setting to avoid headlight glare;
  • Wipe off your headlights and keep your windshield clean inside and out;
  • Going east in the morning or west in the afternoon, the sun may be in your eyes, so allow more space between your vehicle and those in front of you;
  • Take off your sunglasses at dusk;
  • Slow down;
  • Remember high beams can blind an approaching driver, bicyclist or pedestrian. If blinded yourself, look down and toward the right edge of the road; and
  • Look for pedestrians, bicyclists and deer along the roadway, and remember deer are more active at night.

For cyclists and pedestrians:

  • Wear brightly colored clothing, ideally with fluorescent or reflective gear;
  • A new state law taking effect Dec. 1 requires cyclists riding between sunset and sunrise to have a light on the front that can be seen at least 100 yards away, and to have a red lamp or mirror on the back;
  • Look left-right and then left again before stepping off the curb, or pulling across a road on a bike, even if there is a traffic signal at the location;
  • Pedestrians should walk facing traffic so they can see oncoming vehicles;
  • Bicyclists are required to travel in the same direction as other vehicles; and
  • Avoid jaywalking and crossing between parked vehicles. You’re much more visible using the crosswalk.

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