As autumn settles in and leaves take on vibrant hues in Upstate New York, a subtle shift occurs in our daily routines — the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST). While most people associate this change with the joy of gaining an extra hour of sleep in the fall, a downside often goes unnoticed: the potential dangers of driving in the following weeks.
Understanding why the period after the fall DST change can be treacherous for drivers and implementing essential tips can help you stay safe during this transition.
Fall DST refers to when the nation moves the clock back one hour in the fall. This transition typically occurs in late October or early November. It returns the country to standard time, which was changed to DST in the spring and summer to allow for more daylight.
Due to the shift in timing, fall DST typically shortens daylight hours, especially in the early morning and evening. These changes can affect visibility, sleep behavior, and overall safety for motorists and pedestrians.
The week after DST changes in the fall often show an increase in accidents on the road. According to the National Safety Council, between November and March of 2021, fatal crashes peaked during hours affected by the shift in DST—about 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Several factors contribute to this heightened risk, including:
- Changes in Daylight Hours
Fall DST results in shorter daylight hours during the winter. With the sun rising later and setting earlier, many commuters find themselves driving to work or back home in dim or low-light conditions. This reduced visibility can increase the risk of accidents, making navigating roads and highways in Upstate New York more dangerous.
- Increase in Deer Accidents
Deer accidents injure nearly 60,000 individuals annually in the U.S. Fall marks the deer mating season, making these animals more active in the two hours after sunset. A 2022 study found that this heightened deer activity and reduced visibility because of DST changes resulted in a 16% increase in deer-related accidents.
- Sleep Disturbances
A 2023 study by the Sleep Foundation found that the fall DST reversal can be particularly disruptive to sleep patterns. The study found that in the week after fall DST, there was an almost 116% increase in difficulty falling asleep and a 34% increase in overall sleep dissatisfaction among those studied.
These sleep disturbances can lead to drowsy driving crashes, causing injuries or fatalities.
- Increased Fatigue
Adjusting to the new schedule can leave drivers feeling tired and less alert. Fatigue is a well-known contributor to accidents on the road. This fatigue becomes even more perilous when combined with reduced visibility due to the earlier sunsets.
The 2023 study found a 102.8% increase in excessive fatigue during the day in the week after fall DST.
Adjusting to the end of DST can be challenging, as the sudden shift in daily routines and driving conditions can catch people off guard and unprepared to navigate safely. To help prevent DST-related accidents during this transition period, here are some practical tips:
- Check your vehicle’s lights. With less daylight, you will rely more heavily on your lights when driving in the mornings or evenings. Ensure your headlights, taillights, and turn signals work correctly before the time shift occurs. Dirty or foggy headlights can reduce visibility, so keep them clean.
- Increase following distance. Reduced visibility during evening commutes means you need more reaction time. Increase your following distance to at least three seconds to allow for sudden stops. This extra space can save your life in changing visibility and weather conditions.
- Use high beams wisely. Use your high beams to maximize visibility in areas with minimal traffic and no oncoming vehicles. However, always dim them when approaching other drivers or in foggy conditions.
- Watch for wildlife. Be extra vigilant in areas known for deer crossings, and slow down if you spot one. Remember that deer often travel in groups, so if you see one, more may be nearby.
- Minimize distractions. Distracted driving is always dangerous but becomes even riskier with limited visibility. Put away your phone, avoid eating, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
- Plan your route. Plan your routes to avoid high-traffic areas during peak commuting times. Less traffic means fewer potential accidents. Consider leaving a bit earlier or later to avoid the rush.
- Be alert to fatigue. The time change can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to drowsiness. If you feel tired, pull over at a safe location for a break or grab a quick pick-me-up at a gas station to boost your energy levels.
- Watch for children: It may be dusk soon after kids head home from school or step out to play in the neighborhood. Be cautious in residential areas, and reduce your speed in school zones, especially during the late afternoon.
- Prepare for weather changes. Fall often brings unpredictable weather. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. This should contain items like a flashlight, blankets, and non-perishable snacks in case you get caught in inclement weather or a traffic jam.
As DST comes to an end and we adjust to shorter days and longer nights, taking safety precautions on the road is essential. Reduced visibility and changing driving conditions demand extra vigilance from all drivers.
Despite taking precautions, accidents can occur. If you’re hurt in a collision after setting your clock back this fall, speak with an auto accident attorney at Catalano Law. We can review the details of your case to determine if another driver is responsible and help you seek compensation for your injuries.
Contact us for a free case evaluation. We can help you navigate the aftermath of your crash for the best legal outcome.