Twice a year, most of the United States switches to and from Daylight Saving Time (DST), an hour shift that has been shown to cause a significant increase in fatal automobile accidents.
The danger is especially pronounced in the spring when we lose an hour of sleep. Fatal car wrecks go up by 6 percent in the week following the start of DST, typically in March. This is based on a study by the University of Colorado, Boulder, and published in the journal Current Biology.
The 6 percent increase amounts to about 28 additional deaths each year. The spike is even higher — about 8 percent — for those who live on the western edge of their time zones.
The study shows DST may even put our health at greater risk than previously thought. The twice-yearly time switch is also believed to contribute to workplace injuries, sleep disturbances, strokes, and heart attacks.
“These effects on fatal traffic accidents are real, and these deaths can be prevented,” the study’s senior author Céline Vetter, an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder, wrote in an email statement to Healthline.
Because the authors only looked at the most severe car accidents, they suspect the risk of crashes just after the DST switch may be even greater than the study shows.
Why Do Accidents Spike After Daylight Saving Time?
When DST ends, many people find themselves spending more time driving in dark conditions, according to the National Safety Council, a nonprofit safety advocate. Depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision can all be compromised in the dark. In addition, the glare of headlights from an oncoming vehicle can temporarily blind motorists.
Even with high-beam headlights on, visibility is limited, creating less time to react to something in the road, especially when driving at higher speeds.
Even the minor switch in clock time can disrupt the body’s normal sleep patterns, causing a decrease in total sleep time and reduced sleep quality. This sleep disruption can reduce alertness and increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Sleep deprivation can have a pronounced effect on driving ability. It can have a negative impact on how well drivers can make fast decisions, leading to delayed reaction times and reduced attention to the road and the ability to accurately assess potential hazards.
Safety Tips for Driving at Night
The National Safety Council offers these suggestions for driving when it is dark:
- Aim your headlights correctly and make sure they are clean.
- Dim your dashboard.
- Look away from oncoming lights.
- If you wear glasses, make sure they have anti-reflective lenses.
- Clean the windshield to eliminate streaks.
- Slow down to compensate for limited visibility and reduced stopping time.
It also helps to ease into the time shift by adjusting your sleep in the days leading up to it. At night, minimize exposure to blue light coming from phones, laptops and TV. Avoid heavy meals for dinner and try not to drink coffee or alcohol right before going to bed.
Contact a Detroit Car Accident Lawyer If You’ve Been Injured
Despite your best efforts, you or a loved one may be hurt in a crash caused by someone else’s negligence. Michigan law makes it possible for you to seek no-fault benefits and potentially other types of compensation after a collision. The experienced Detroit car accident lawyers at Christensen Law can help determine your legal options in a free consultation.
Call or contact us today to arrange your free case review.