Each year there is a spike in auto accidents in March and November, directly correlating to the shift in time for daylight savings. Daylight savings time moves ahead one hour in the spring, typically in March, while it turns back in the fall, usually November. Data shows that something as simple as an hour’s shift in either direction can lead to an increase in car accidents.
Many factors go into the increase in accidents during this time, including changes in circadian rhythms and sleep schedules to increased access to alcohol. While many states look to change the daylight savings time laws, it is currently here to stay. Discover why accidents increase during these two times of the year and learn how to protect yourself against an accident.
What Causes the Increase in Accidents?
For many, daylight savings doesn’t seem like much of a change. It only happens twice a year and we adjust to a gain or loss of sleep. But there is evidence showing a correlation between daylight savings and an increase in car accidents.
Lack of Sleep
Although an hour doesn’t seem like much, it can make a huge difference for already sleep-deprived adults. A study by the CDC claims that a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. It’s recommended to get at least 7 hours each night, but the evidence shows that 42.8% of American adults get less than 7 hours.
Take another hour off that for daylight savings, and the symptoms of sleep deprivation set in, such as loss of alertness, excessive sleepiness, and a greater chance of car accidents.
Increase in Dark Hours
Even in the fall, when the clocks turn back to give us an extra hour of sleep, the already short sunlight hours become even shorter. For many, this means driving more often in the dark because the sun has already set during their evening commute.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Organization, night travel only accounts for 25% of all travel, while 49% of all fatal car crashes happen at night, making the fatality rate per vehicle mile about three times higher. This disproportionate number can be linked to higher chances of speeding, lower seat belt use, and alcohol involvement.
Animal Behavior Change Relative to Clock Changes
A study by the Journal of Environmental Management investigated the deer-vehicle collision rates in New York State. They found that cars struck deer more often in the fall when clocks turn back because the average after-work commute lined up with dusk, the most active time for most deer populations in New York.
In New York State, an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 car crashes each year involve a deer, with the majority happening between October and December. This is not only related to the change in time but the breeding season for deer, which makes them even more active, furthering the chance of an accident.
How to Stay Safe During the Time Transition
While it’s not 100% possible to completely protect yourself from a car accident, there are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of becoming an accident victim.
- Go to sleep earlier in the days leading up to daylight savings.
- Spend time outdoors during the day to help sync your circadian rhythms.
- Don’t drink coffee before bed to avoid staying up too late.
- Get your eyes checked for nighttime vision impairments.
- Clean your headlights, so they are fully functional.
- Check tires, brake fluid, coolant, and other car components and top up or replace them if needed.
- Stop to rest if you feel drowsy while driving, or avoid driving when you know you’ll be sleepy.
- Leave plenty of time to commute. Rushing will increase accident risks.
- Be extra cautious on the road. Leave extra room between you and cars in front of you, follow the speed limit, and approach intersections cautiously.
The Importance of Seeking a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or someone you love has been in a car accident because of daylight savings changes, you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries and damages suffered. An experienced personal injury attorney familiar with injuries involving daylight savings can ensure you a smooth claim process.
The attorneys at Catalano Law are knowledgeable about New York State law and have extensive experience negotiating with attorneys and insurance companies to get you the highest settlement possible.
Our attorneys have years of experience that will make your personal injury case go as quickly as possible. Schedule a free consultation today.