Do Car Accidents Increase When Daylight Saving Time Begins?

daylight saving

On Sunday, March 13, the clocks will be changed to daylight saving time. This means that we will be losing an hour of our sleep. Research has been performed on whether daylight saving time affects our general amount of sleep to the point at which it will increase the number of car accidents. People across the United States will be setting their clocks forward as daylight saving time begins.  But does turning the clock ahead one hour create a dangerous driving situation? How can just a loss of one hour of sleep increase the number of accidents we see on our roads and highways?

Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time?

Most people do not know why we change the time twice a year. The main reason for daylight saving time has long been to save energy. The time change was first instituted in the United States during World War I, and then reinstituted again during World War II, as a part of the war effort to save energy. After the war ended, the tradition was never changed back to normal. The way daylight saving time saves energy is that it decreases the use of electricity in small amounts for each household. But when all the small savings are added up, there is a significant national energy savings. Most other countries use daylight saving time except for countries on the equator. Japan, India, and China are the only major industrialized countries that do not observe some form of daylight saving time.

Increased Car Accidents after Daylight Saving Time

According to a study conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and published in the journal Accident Analysis &Prevention, daylight saving time is actually associated with a slight increase in car accidents, especially deadly single-vehicle collisions, during the first weeks of daylight saving time.  

The research found that traffic fatalities increased about five percent on average after daylight saving time went into effect, although some states showed increases as high as 12 percent. In addition, fatal single-vehicle collisions rose eight percent on average from daylight saving time. 

Ohio State researchers analyzed almost two million traffic accidents between 1975 and 2008 using information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System database, controlling for factors including weather conditions, vehicle safety features, and even economic conditions.  They discovered that daylight saving time was associated with an average increase in car accidents of seven percent, including fatal single-vehicle collisions increasing eight percent on average starting the day after the change to daylight saving time. 

A five percent increase in traffic fatalities is not insignificant. Some experts think that daylight saving time is a dangerous tradition we have in this country. In addition, daylight saving time does not affect everyone equally, specifically older drivers as a group of people who may be more affected by daylight saving.  For many elderly people, daylight saving may mean waking up in the dark to go to work later in daylight hours when they are still tired from having been awake during hours of darkness.  Many accidents are likely caused by drivers dozing off behind the wheel.

Some Positive News about Daylight Saving Time

However, daylight savings time has some advantages for driver safety. It reduces traffic fatalities during daylight hours in fall because less daylight means reduced visibility for drivers, which results in slower speeds and safer conditions. This just demonstrates the complexity with this issue, given the fact that daylight saving time can be beneficial in one part of the year but have a negative effect on our safe driving in another part of the year. It all depends on how much sleep we lose and whether we are driving more during dark hours.

How to Be a Safer Driver during the Change to Daylight Saving Time

To lower the risks of getting into a car accident after the change to daylight saving time, experts suggest that people ease into the shifting of the time. Here are some suggestions to consider to be a safer driver during these periods:

  • Get more sleep, if possible, in the days leading up to the daylight saving time transition.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule to limit fatigue.
  • Reduce screen time from phones, laptops, and television at night, which can prevent you from falling asleep.
  • Avoid heavy meals before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks or alcohol before bedtime.
  • If you are feeling sleepy after daylight saving time takes effect, there is nothing wrong with taking a nap each day for several days.
  • Avoid nicotine at night before bedtime.
  • Avoid exercise before you go to bed.

Types of Car Accidents Caused by Lack of Sleep

There are types of car and truck accidents that are often seen that are caused by drivers who are fatigued. These collisions happen from people dozing off or falling asleep behind the wheel, but also zoning out while driving. Zoning out happens when you are tired and your mind just drifts off. The result is that you are not focusing on what you are doing and what is in the road ahead of you. The following are common results:

  • Drifting off the side of the road and striking a tree, guardrail, or ditch
  • Running into other vehicles that are ahead of you
  • Swerving into the other lane and sideswiping another car
  • Running through traffic control devices such as stop lights and stop signs at intersections 

Mount Laurel Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman Fight for Injured Clients

Being seriously injured in a car or truck accident can be a traumatic experience. You may have a lot of questions about our medical bills and lost wages. But you do not have to go through this alone. If you have been injured in a car accident, reach out to the Mount Laurel car accident lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman. Our experienced legal team has been successfully representing clients seriously injured in car accidents for decades. Call us at 856-751-2345 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Mount Laurel and surrounding areas.