Americans have changed the clocks twice a year like clockwork for decades. However, daylight saving changes are controversial and the practice is linked to an increase in automobile crashes. Now legislators are considering making the changes a thing of the past.
The U.S. Senate passed legislation on March 15 that would make daylight saving time permanent starting in 2023. If the legislation passes the House and is signed by President Joe Biden, it will end the twice-annual changing of clocks, Reuters reports.
The Sunshine Protection Act passed the Senate unanimously. A committee in the House of Representatives is to consider the matter before it can go to Biden to sign.
Benefits of Ending Daylight Savings
Supporters believe ending daylight savings will result in brighter afternoons and more economic activity. Evidence also suggests daylight savings changes affect our body clocks causing an upsurge in traffic accidents caused by fatigue.
Research from the University of Colorado at Boulder indicated fatal motor vehicle accidents typically spike for the first six days after the clocks spring forward in March.
Road Deaths Increase after Time Changes
The study by Austin C. Smith, “Spring Forward at Your Own Risk: Daylight Saving Time and Fatal Vehicle Crashes” highlighted the high cost of daylight savings switches to society. It found 302 more road deaths during the study year in the first six days after the clocks went forward. Daylight savings cost a staggering $2.75 billion over a decade, noted Healthline.
The research indicates the adjustment in March is particularly deadly on the roads, although accidents also increase when the clocks go back in the fall. The research alluded a 6 percent rise in fatal car accidents the week after the clocks spring forward. The time change increases sleep deprivation, resulting in symptoms akin to jet lag in morning drivers who are more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel. Drowsy driving is often compared to drunken driving and is just as hazardous. Studies like the one from the University of Colorado suggest daylight saving is considerably more dangerous than previously thought. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted more accidents on America’s highways after both the spring and fall changes. In the fall, the extra hour also appears to disrupt people’s sleep cycles leaving them more drowsy at the wheel.
Daylight saving time has been part of American life in most states since 1918.
Supporters of year-round daylight savings say the change could prevent the uptick in car crashes that usually occurs when the cocks go forward and back. They also cite studies that show a small increase in the rate of medical conditions such as heart attacks and strokes shortly after the time change. They say the measure could assist businesses such as golf courses that would benefit from more evening daylight.
History of Permanent Daylight Savings
However, permanent daylight savings has been tried before and abandoned. Year-round daylight savings time was introduced during World War Two and adopted again in 1973 to cut energy use due to an oil embargo. It was repealed a year later.
The Washingtonian noted people hated permanent daylight savings in the 1970s. Research pointed to a slight uptick in early morning accidents in the dark.
The Washingtonian noted how a 6-year-old girl in Alexandria, Virginia, was hit by a car on her way to her school, breaking her leg. Two Prince George County students were hurt. In the weeks after the change, eight Florida children died in traffic accidents. The research suggested the uptick in accidents was marginal. The National Safety Council noted pre-sunrise fatalities after the change in 1974 rose to 20 from 18 the year before. The permanent daylight savings experiment ended just weeks after the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Opponents of Year-Round Daylight Savings
One opponent of daylight savings, Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, a neurologist at the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center, told NBC News, year-round daylight savings is a dangerous idea.
“Going to daylight saving time year-round is a really bad idea. If we do this, it’s essentially dosing the entire United States with jet lag — permanent jet lag,” Watson said.
Link Between Daylight Savings, Fatigue, and Car Accidents
Fatigue is a major cause of accidents in Virginia. Although there is a clear link between daylight savings and tiredness, there are many causes of fatigue. Often drivers fail to get enough sleep, embark on long trips while taking too few breaks, or drive in the early hours of the morning. If you or a family member has been hurt in a car, truck, bus, or motorcycle accident please see our Virginia car crash resources or call our personal injury team.