Driving is dangerous at any time of year. Accidents happen for a variety of reasons. And knowing about the potential causes and increased danger at certain times can help you avoid them.
Daylight Saving Time is the practice of adjusting our clocks an hour ahead in the spring and an hour back in the fall. This is practiced throughout the United States except in Hawaii and Arizona. The sun rises and sets at the same time in Hawaii throughout the year so it didn’t make much sense for them to adopt the practice. Arizona also receives a lot of sunlight so they didn’t adopt the practice either (except for the Navaho Nation who wanted to keep consistent time with surrounding territories that stretch into Utah and New Mexico).
The rest of the country deals with the time changes two times every year. And these dates are associated with health risks and increases in traffic accidents.
We thought we’d look into the effects of the time changes on car wrecks, and how to minimize them.
What the Studies Say
The days on which Daylight Saving Time is enacted — both in the spring and in the fall — are correlated with an increase in fatal traffic accidents, according to a study outlined on PubMed.gov.
The reasoning for this is different depending on whether the clocks move forward or back an hour, but they’re both related to changes in our habits.
We lose an hour of sleep at the start of Daylight Saving Time in the spring. An hour of sleep might not seem like much, but the physical and cognitive changes result in an uptick of traffic accidents on the Monday after the change.
The end of Daylight Saving Time in the fall, however, is associated with an increase in traffic accidents on that Sunday.
Reasons for the Change
Lack of sleep affects our bodies in a variety of ways. One notable way that this greatly impacts our driving ability is the reduction in reaction time. Not getting enough sleep also makes it harder for us to pay attention. These two factors create a dangerous driving situation.
The change in time in the spring causes us to change our sleep schedule. Our bodies like to operate on a consistent pattern, so switching this up can take some time to get back on a schedule. This is particularly true for that first Monday after Daylight Saving Time, which shows a drastic increase in car wrecks as people make their way to work.
The time change in the fall has a different challenge that results in traffic accidents: the illusion of an extra hour. Our clocks will go an hour backwards at 2am on November 1st, 2020. This causes many people to feel like they have an additional hour to play with.
An extra hour tacked onto the end of a Saturday night usually means one of two things — a person will be more tired when they go home, or they’ll have an extra hour to enjoy alcoholic beverages with their friends. Both of these situations create increasingly dangerous driving scenarios.
Tips to Avoid Accidents After a Shift
These shifts in time are difficult for us because they upset our normal rhythms. So, the best way to minimize the negative effects of Daylight Saving Time is to prepare our bodies and minds to our new schedules.
Go to bed at a normal time on Saturday night. Don’t stay up any later because of the extra hour in the fall. This only sets you up for a few difficult days of readjusting.
You might find yourself sleepy over the next few days as your body gets used to the new sleep schedule. Don’t nap in the afternoons. And don’t change your caffeine intake. Try to keep everything as normal as possible and your body will make the necessary adjustments over the next few days.
Safe Practices for Night Driving
Adjusting our clocks means the sun sets much earlier after Daylight Saving Time ends on November 1st. The rates of traffic accidents increase after dark. It’s more difficult to see and easier to become sleepy.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you navigate the roads at night:
- Keep your windshield spotless. Smudges can make oncoming headlights more distracting.
- Reduce your traveling speed.
- Be aware of driver fatigue. This includes driving drowsy or even the tendency to zone out as you watch the road.
- Make sure all lights are working properly. This includes headlights, tail lights, turn signals, and even the light on your instrument panel.
- Drive defensively. You never know if surrounding drivers are paying attention to the additional issues of driving at night.
Call an Experienced Car Wreck Attorney if You Experience an Accident
No matter the time of year, a car wreck attorney is your greatest asset after an accident. The professionals at Bart Durham Injury Law have been fighting on behalf of drivers in Nashville, TN and Bowling Green, KY for years.
Have you experienced a traffic accident? Do you need help dealing with the insurance companies? Call Bart Durham Injury Law today.