While some dislike the seasonal shifts of Daylight Saving Time (DST) for the minor inconvenience to their sleep cycles and busy schedules, there’s a more serious side to the scheme: the loss of an hour of afternoon sunlight when it ends—as it does this weekend—may increase the likelihood of traffic accidents.
In addition, cars kill more pedestrians nationwide during daylight saving time changes than at any other time of year, according to data from experts. This year, the fall time change occurs on Nov. 6.
In addition to leading to poor visibility in darkness, some experts say the requirement for people to abruptly adapt to a time change overnight may lead to dangerous driving. “Even though it’s dark, you’re still behaving like it’s light,” said Lawrence University economist David Gerard, of the first weeks after a time change. People may drive faster, he said, and pedestrians may be less attentive.
The traffic statistics alone seem like pretty conclusive evidence that daylight saving time is more than a mere inconvenience. And researchers say that the grogginess we feel for the first couple of days after we change the clocks might just be scratching the surface of how our bodies actually process the disruption.
People who only sleep four or five hours a night under normal circumstances are at a much higher risk of causing a car crash than people who sleep six or seven hours a night, and people who get eight hours of sleep or more are least likely to cause a crash. But when sleep cycles get disrupted, everyone gets messed up.
Although most research tends to focus on the “spring forward” period, when we lose an hour of sleep, experts say that the “fall back” period also has negative and dangerous effects, despite the extra hour gained, because the sleep cycle is still significantly altered. As long as daylight saving time remains the national standard, there’s not much that can be done about these effects.
Experts suggest being proactive: go to bed a little earlier during the adjustment period, look out for signs of drowsiness while driving and pull over to rest, if necessary.
If you find yourself in an accident during daylight savings time, call us to learn more about how we can help you or to set up a free consultation.
Reyes Browne Reilley is a Dallas, Texas, based Martindale-Hubbell AV-Rated personal injury law firm. Our Dallas personal injury lawyers have a nearly combined 100 years experience representing plaintiffs in personal injury, business, and dangerous prescription drug & device litigation.