Is There a Rise in Car Accidents during the Switch to Daylight Saving Time?Published: Feb 28, 2022 in Auto Accident
Daylight saving time may not be a national holiday, but it elicits plenty of excitement when it begins. On the second Sunday in March, people turn their clocks ahead by an hour across the United States with few state and municipality exceptions. The clocks stay that way until the first Sunday in November.
Does pushing the clock forward an hour make much of a difference in everyone’s daily life? It can, especially if you commute in the morning or evening. According to research published in the American Economic Journal in 2016, daylight saving time can be connected to an uptick in fatal car accidents. These findings are echoed by a scientific study conducted in 2020 at the University of Colorado at Boulder that suggests the increase could be as high as six percent within the first week.
The question remains: Why would shifting time by just 60 minutes have such serious consequences for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians? Below are some of the biggest reasons that professionals from health care workers to car accident lawyers expect to get busier right after daylight saving time begins.
Drivers Are More Likely to Suffer from Sleep Deprivation
Most people treat the night before daylight saving time like an ordinary Saturday evening. They go to bed at their usual times and just expect to lose an hour of sleep in the morning. The general feeling is that throughout Sunday they can somehow make up the deficit and feel back to normal by Monday.
Our bodies work differently, however. Losing an hour of sleep puts us into deficit mode right away. An extra cup of coffee might help us feel more alert, but our minds still need time to adjust. Otherwise, we have trouble making quick decisions and reacting to changing circumstances.
Some studies even suggest that when we fall into a state of sleep deprivation, we risk behaving like intoxicated drivers. Because our alertness drops, we may operate a vehicle similar to the way someone who was under the influence might do so. In other words, you might have less control over your reaction time after turning your clock ahead.
Sun Glare Can Get in the Way of Sight Lines
Feeling drowsy is hardly the only issue for drivers after the change to daylight saving time. By adjusting the clock, we also adjust the time when the sun rises and sets. This might seem like a good thing because we feel like we are getting more time in the sunshine. Certainly, people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) report fewer depressive responses during daylight saving time. Yet all that sunlight can have an unexpected effect in terms of windshield glare.
Will sun glare affect you? It could if you leave your home and drive east toward your place of work. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Therefore, driving toward the rising sun could make it tough for you to see at times. When you leave work at the end of the day, you may wind up driving back into sun glare as the sun descends.
Daylight Savings Time Is Linked to Increases in Cardiovascular Events
Every year after the switch to daylight saving time, hospitals and emergency rooms across the United States see a rise in patients experiencing heart attacks and strokes. One study from 2014 indicated that cardiovascular events increased within the first two days after the start of daylight saving time by 24 percent.
In other words, drivers prone to cardiovascular conditions may be more likely to have medical problems right after the clocks change in March. Professionals believe it is attributed to losing sleep. When the body’s natural sleep rhythms are interrupted, the cardiovascular system becomes compromised.
Young and New Drivers May Be Unprepared
Each year, millions of teens and adults begin to drive or earn their driver’s licenses. They may be unprepared for daylight saving time because they have never experienced it before as drivers. The first time they get on the roads and battle with sun glare or exhaustion, they may panic or make poor judgments.
It is important to remember that teens may have poor sleep habits anyway because they are just learning how to harmonize the demands of their academic, athletic, and social lives. As drivers, their pressures can lead to further distractions.
Tips to Reduce the Known Effects of Daylight Saving Time
Daylight saving time is not going anywhere, despite many lawmakers’ bills proposing to make it a permanent, year-round fixture. Knowing this, you can mitigate its potentially negative aspects as a driver by implementing a few strategies and steps.
Pay attention to your sleep: Going to bed a little earlier the weekend that daylight saving time begins will help you feel less deprived and more refreshed by the time Monday morning rolls around.
Prepare for the glare: You know that sun glare may be a problem. Plan for it by buying a pair of dependable sunglasses. Use your car’s visor as well. Alternatively, you could leave your house a little earlier or later to avoid the harshest effects of the sun as it rises. Do the same at the end of the day, and you can avoid driving into the sun.
Teach young drivers: Have a teen or young adult driver in your family who has never driven during the beginning of daylight saving time before? Teach your new driver what to expect. A few reminders could mean the difference between a safe arrival or getting into an accident.
Stay alert on the highway: You feel great because you got enough sleep and have prepped for daylight saving time. Can you be sure that other drivers have done likewise? Focus your attention on what is happening around you as you drive. That way, you can take action if another driver has succumbed to the effects of sleep deprivation, sun glare, a medical emergency, or inexperience.
Above all else, take care when driving during the second week in March. That way, you can enjoy the advantages of getting more time in the sunshine without putting yourself in harm’s way.
East St. Louis Car Accident Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC Help Clients Injured in Accidents Related to the Time Change
If you were involved in a car accident in which the switch to daylight saving time was a factor, reach out to the East St. Louis car accident lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC. Our experienced legal team will investigate the circumstances of the accident and fight to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 618-277-3644 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Swansea, Illinois, we serve clients in St. Louis, Belleville, East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Granite City, Waterloo, Chester, Carbondale, St. Clair County, Madison County, Monroe County, Randolph County, and other regions throughout Southern Illinois.