Daylight Saving is Linked to a Spike in Fatal Car Crashes
If you felt tired over the last week, you are not alone. The spring forward to daylight saving every year causes havoc with our body clocks. Daylight saving also causes an increase in car accidents. The clocks were turned forward one hour on March 14. Research suggests the effects of waking up an hour earlier are a lot more serious than the minor inconvenience associated with getting out of bed earlier in the morning.
Research by the University of Colorado at Boulder found fatal motor vehicle accidents typically spike for the first six days after the clocks spring forward in March. The study, “Spring Forward at Your Own Risk: Daylight Saving Time and Fatal Vehicle Crashes” authored by Austin C. Smith graphically highlighted the cost of daylight savings to society. It noted there were 302 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 points to a 6 percent rise in fatal car accidents the week after the clocks spring forward. The time change increases sleep deprivation, resulting in symptoms similar to jet-lag in morning commuters who are more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel. Drowsy driving is often compared to drunken driving and is just as dangerous.
Studies like the one from the University of Colorado suggest daylight saving is considerably more dangerous than we previously thought. They have fueled the debate over whether daylight saving should be abolished altogether.
On top of a spike in car accidents, the biannual time switch is linked to a host of other serious conditions such as stroke and heart attacks, as well as injuries in the workplace.
Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found a clear link between sleep deprivation and car crashes. It indicated people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in wrecks than people who slept at least eight hours or more a night. Sleep deprivation is a particular issue in the trucking industry. Serious accidents involving big rigs in Virginia often occur early in the morning.
Sleeping less than 5 hours a night increases the risk of being involved in a car wreck a staggering four to five times, according to the research. Truckers often drive during the early hours of the morning, a time when our bodies are craving sleep. The AAA also finds more than 250,000 people fall asleep at the wheel every year, some for just a microsecond. Just a few seconds of drowsiness can be the difference between life and death on our highways.
“When the clocks change — whether it is falling back or springing forward, peoples’ sleep cycles are interrupted, and when sleep cycles are interrupted, they tend to be drowsy,” Mary Maguire of AAA stated. Although a rise in car crashes is often associated with daylight savings in the spring, researchers have identified a spike in the fall too after the clocks spring back. They blame a disruption in sleep rhythms.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted more accidents on our roads after both the spring and fall changes. In the fall, the extra hour also appears to disrupt people’s sleep cycles leaving them drowsier at the wheel.
Understandably, the increased deaths associated with daylight saving challenge the whole point of a change with obscure origins more than a century ago. The measure is often erroneously credited to the author and statesman Benjamin Franklin who said a later sunset would lead Americans to use less fuel in oil lamps.
History.com noted the Englishman Willam Willett had an epiphany that the United Kingdom should move its clocks forward by 80 minutes between April and October during a dreary morning horseback ride in London. His rationale was the measure would allow more people could enjoy the sunlight.
He published the 1907 brochure “The Waste of Daylight” and campaigned unsuccessfully for change. Germany was the first country to enact daylight savings in 1916 to conserve electricity during World War I. Other nations followed suit.
Tips to Avoid Daylight Saving Fatigue
Here are some tips to stay safe and minimize the risk of daylight-saving fatigue.
- Adults should build in seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Teens should aim for eight to 10.
- Surgeons should consider taking the day off after the clocks spring forward off work. Wendy Troxel, a Rand Corp. senior scientist who wrote a book about sleep, told The Washington Post, adverse medical events spiked by 18 percent in the week after switching to DST.
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule and avoid caffeine, chocolate, aerobic exercise, screen time, or nicotine before you go to bed.
- Allow time for your commute. Although waking up earlier than usual is a drag, do not leave it too late and end up rushing to get to work. You are more likely to take risks and cause an accident.
Most of the research suggests daylight saving time is an anachronism. Its disadvantages appear to outweigh any benefits we gain from lighter nights. However, it appears to be here to stay. If you or a family member ends up injured in a car accident, please contact our Virginia auto accident lawyers as soon as possible.