Number of Accidents Always Increase When Daylight Saving Time Ends
The end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) is upon us. On November 7, we’ll let our clocks “fall back” an hour, giving us the blessed extra hour of rest we all crave. But beware ― data shows that an increase in car accidents accompanies both the fall and spring time changes.
Causes of Car Accidents During Daylight Saving Time
In general, the autumn switch is the least problematic for drivers. But it does create legitimate risks. It gets dark an hour earlier, limiting visibility during the busy afternoon and evening commute. Drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists are at an increased risk of being involved in a crash after DST ends. According to a study from Carnegie Mellon University, pedestrians are three times as likely to get hit by a car in the time just after the fall switch. And according to AAA, the most dangerous hour is from 5 to 6 p.m.
Furthermore, studies show the fall time change affects driver behavior, especially on the Sunday night before the shift. Researchers believe people stay up later and may engage in late-night behaviors that increase the threat of car accidents, such as drinking while driving. Staying up late, in turn, results in sleep deprivation that can contribute to drowsy driving accidents the next day. According to an article in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep, around 20 percent of serious injuries from car accidents are linked to driver sleepiness.
How Fatigue Affects Your Driving
Nobody complains about an extra hour of sleep. But even though it’s a favorable gain in the fall, the sudden change still offsets the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle, affecting both the quantity and quality of sleep you get. Poor sleep can affect the body as badly as alcohol can when it comes to driving. A report from the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety found that driving on 4 to 5 hours of sleep is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol concentration at or above the legal limit.
For this reason, many legislatures ― including Alabama’s ― have pushed to make Daylight Saving Time permanent. Alabama adopted permanent DST in 2021, and the bill was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey. But Congress would still have to approve the change before it could take effect.
How to Avoid a Car Accident During Daylight Saving Time
The best way to prevent a car accident during Daylight Saving Time is to do your part to reduce its adverse effects on your body. This means:
- Getting enough sleep: Don’t stay up late on the night of the fall change in anticipation of being able to “make it up” the next day. You can’t bank sleep.
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time: Maintain consistent sleeping habits year-round to combat the feelings of sluggishness that accompany a time change.
- Paying extra attention: It’s going to get darker earlier. You’ll need to be prepared to pay close attention to the road for children, bicyclists, other pedestrians, and wildlife as you adjust to the autumn switch.