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Does Daylight Saving Time Cause More Car Accidents? What You Need to Know

Posted in Car Accidents on April 24, 2022

Daylight Saving Time leads to sleep deprivation and circadian rhythm disruption, causing increased driver fatigue and a documented rise in car accidents the week after we “spring forward” an hour.

Comparing Key Points

Impact on Car Accidents Reasons/Contributing Factors
Daylight Saving Time 6% rise in fatal crashes the week after DST starts; 28 more deaths per year Fatigue from lost sleep; less light in mornings; circadian rhythm disruptions impairing alertness
Drivers in Western Time Zones Up to 8% increased fatal crash rate Sunrise/sunset times are later; reduced morning light visibility

Does Daylight Saving Time increase car accidents? 

Yes, research shows that for the week after we “spring forward” an hour and start Daylight Saving Time (DST) in March, there is a consistent rise in fatal car crashes – specifically a 6 percent increase nationally leading to an average of 28 more deaths per year. This spike correlates to the sleep deprivation and disrupted circadian rhythms caused by the abruptly earlier sunrise, making drivers drowsy and less alert. Studies also found those living further west experience a greater increase in deadly crashes – up to 8 percent – due to later sunrise/sunset times providing less morning light and visibility.

Is it Daylight Savings or Daylight Saving Time? No matter what you call it, everyone dreads Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the spring, when time suddenly, not happily, “springs forward” an hour. 

While fewer than half of all countries worldwide participate in the annual “time-saving” tradition, Americans not only continue to lose an hour each spring but also lose lives on the road.

  • According to the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which researched 20 years of car accidents from 1996 to 2017, there was a consistent rise in fatal car crashes during the week after DST to an average 6 percent increase and 28 deaths each year.
  • On the other side of that, accidents decreased after that week, and there was no impact on accident rates in the fall’s DST.

This annual time change ritual may not be as harmless after all.

Why Does Daylight Saving Time Cause More Car Accidents?

  • Interestingly, there was a spike in car accidents in 2007, when the Energy Policy Act changed the country’s DST from April to March, which proves the link between car accidents and DST.
  • Research from a recent study shows that the one-hour time loss each spring causes Americans to experience a sort of jetlag that is more intense in the first few days after spring Daylight Saving Time, with symptoms lasting up to two weeks.
  • Statistics also confirm that, on the night of DST, motorists will lose an extra 40 minutes of sleep on top of the one-hour change.

The interrupted sleep schedule takes a toll on our bodies behind the wheel, causing us to make unsafe choices while driving. 

Factors that lead to car accidents include:

  • Driving fatigue, which could lead to falling asleep behind the wheel
  • Lack of light in the morning, which could impact safe driving

Further research showed that the further west a driver lives, the greater the risk of being involved in a car crash  – an 8 percent increase in fatal crashes – because of their time zone where the sun rises and sets later.

Not only does DST affect the body, leading to more car accidents, it also causes more injuries at work, more strokes, and a reported 24 percent increase in heart attack visits to hospitals across the United States; again, this trend is the opposite the day after we turn back our clocks in the fall.

Why Is There Daylight Saving Time?

Each spring in the United States, moving clocks forward an hour for Daylight Saving Time prepares all for the summer by providing more light in the evenings and less light in the mornings.

There are a few explanations on the origins of DST. The concept that it was implemented to benefit farmers and their schedules is a myth; in fact, farmers have been lobbying against DST since it first started. 

Through the Standard Time Act, DST was established in Germany as a wartime strategy during World War I to add more daylight hours to conserve energy resources and again during World War II. Research shows, however, that DST really does not save energy after all, but it is known to reduce crime because of the extra light in the evening.

“Hawaii and Arizona do not follow the biannual DST, and 13 more states are proposing to follow suit through the Sunshine Protection Act, legislation that will make daylight saving time the permanent time.”

It could become a new guideline across the United States, as the Senate passed the act on March 15, 2022, and, if signed by President Joe Biden, would begin to be observed in November 2023.

How to Better Adjust to Daylight Saving Time

There are ways, according to health experts, to ease into the DST time shift a few days before by prioritizing your sleep schedule to reduce fatigue before drivers get behind the wheel, which could include:

  • Minimizing light exposure before bedtime (phones, laptops, TV)
  • Avoiding heavy meals, coffee, or alcohol before bedtime and start eating dinner a little earlier each night
  • Going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier each night three nights before DST
  • Setting your clocks ahead in the afternoon of that Saturday before the time change and then going to bed at normal bedtime

These tips spread throughout a few days rather than the night before DST, could help drivers adjust a little easier after the time change. If still feeling groggy, drivers should schedule naps if possible during the day (but not behind the wheel).

Are There Benefits to Daylight Saving Time?

Although the cons outweigh the pros to Daylight Saving Time, according to studies, there are a few benefits to consider because of adding one more hour of natural daylight to our afternoons, including: 

  • Reduced pedestrian fatalities by 13 percent during the hours of dusk and dawn
  • Decrease in robberies by 7 percent after the spring DST
  • Increased daylight, which adds more time for outdoor recreation
  • Longer evenings, which boosts the tourism industry, giving people more time to go shopping, dine out, or attend outdoor events

What to do After a Car Accident

The first priority, of course, is to seek medical attention. The next steps include collecting basic evidence at the scene, which could come into play during any potential legal case, such as:

  • Photos of the scene, including any damages to the vehicle
  • The other driver’s name and insurance
  • The names and contact information of any witnesses
  • A copy of the police report

Although the insurance company is responsible for covering any financial losses, drivers are often unfairly compensated for these losses, as well as any physical injuries or emotional damages after a car accident

A personal injury attorney can be an added layer of defense to ensure the proper compensation is received. 

Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident

We know the challenges drivers face after a car accident. Here at the Law Office of John W. Redmann, we are recognized leaders in personal injury law and have been helping clients throughout Southeast Louisiana get the compensation they deserve since 1990.

Contact us today so that we can get started.