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Daylight Savings Time Clock Change Has Real Risks For Drivers

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When you hear “Daylight Saving Time,” what comes to mind?

For many folks in the 48 states that observe the bi-annual time change, daylight savings time– which is the one where we “spring forward” – is far from fun or easy. But among the seemingly minor gripes and grievances we have about losing out on an hour or sleep or missing some early Monday morning meetings, there are valid reasons for why this time change isn’t good for us.

And according to researchers, that’s plain to see from the spike in auto accidents we historically see this time of year.

Statistics Show Spike in Car Wrecks After Daylight Savings Time

Except for those in Hawaii and most of Arizona, most Americans spring forward for Daylight Saving Time (turn clocks ahead and lose an hour) on the first Sunday in March and fall back for Standard Time (turn clocks back and gain an hour) on the first Sunday in November.

The long-standing ritual was first implemented in the U.S. with the Standard Time Act, a wartime measure passed during WWI passed in the interest of conserving energy resources, and again during WWII for the same reasons. Following the war, local jurisdictions had freedom to choose to observe daylight savings time until the Uniform Time Act standardized daylight savings time in 1966.

In the decades since, there’s been much debate about our semi-annual changing of the clocks, as well as many attempts to abolish the practice. This includes lawmakers’ brief experiment of enacting permanent daylight savings time in 1974 before repealing it a year later following complaints from commuters and children who weren’t happy about starting their work and school day in darkness during winter, as well as many other proposed measures over the years.

But even after all this time, changing the clocks hasn’t become any easier. And some research suggests it’s even dangerous – especially when it comes to auto accidents.

For example, way back in 1999, Stanford and Johns Hopkins researchers reviewed 21 years of fatal car crash data from NHTSA and found a significant increase in fatal car accidents following the Spring time shift. According to that study, the average 78 deadly accidents on a typical Monday increased to nearly 84 on the first Monday following the March time change.

Several other studies conducted since the Stanford/Johns Hopkins review have supported similar findings. This includes:

  • A Canadian study that noted an 8% increase in all types of traffic accidents, including fatal and non-fatal wrecks, following the Spring time change.
  • A study from the University of Colorado that, in addition to identifying spikes in fatal car accidents and workplace injuries, suggested drivers had increased crash risks for up to a week after the daylight savings time change due to missed sleep and a sudden shift to driving in darkness for early morning commuters. They also noted that the correlation was stronger for those on the western edge of their time zones, who tend to sleep less on average than their counterparts in the east due to later sunrise and sunset times.

Ending the Time Change?

These studies continue to fuel efforts by lawmakers to end our time changes once and for all – although not without ample debate over whether Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time should be the solution, a matter where even experts are split.

  • According to some, making Standard Time permanent is the preferable solution, as making daylight savings time year-round would yield later sunsets in fall and winter and sunrises that wouldn’t come until 8:15 am or later for places like New Jersey – or even 9:00 am in other parts of the country.
  • Making Standard Time permanent would produce the opposite effect. This means that on the longest days of the year, places like New Jersey would experience very early sunrises around 4:30 am and sunsets around 7:30 pm rather than 8:30 pm.

Support between the two options is largely split: some find brighter summer evenings more appealing, while others would be happy to trade those evenings for brighter winter mornings.

There are also economic and public health considerations to both sides, with proponents of daylight savings time claiming that there’d be less crime and increased consumer spending and advocates for permanent standard time who claim it would reduce gas consumption and make for better sleep.

Another complicating factor is lobbying from industries with money on the line. This includes major TV networks that claim evening sunlight diverts people away from their business, and convenience stores, restaurants, and barbecue equipment manufacturers, all of which lobbied to extend daylight savings time by three weeks in 1987 because they stand to gain when people have more daylight after work.

And though polls seem to indicate that Americans generally aren’t fond of changing their clocks twice a year, there is support for continuing the status quo and splitting the difference.

In the end, it’s a difficult dilemma with a lot of variables. But if research can show that eliminating time changes and making standard time or daylight savings time permanent would reduce the seasonal uptick in workplace injuries, auto accidents, and other adverse health effects, that may be a strong reason to just choose one or the other.

The Take-Away: Sleep Has Real Consequences for Safety

While people in Congress, bars, and barber shops engage in their own debates about Daylight Saving Time and whether it should be abolished, there’s another more important issue at hand – the dangerous effects of drowsy driving.

As studies show, even minor disturbances in sleep, such as those associated with our daylight savings time change, can have disastrous consequences. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, for instance, has found that drivers who miss out on even a few hours of sleep in a single night have crash risks comparable to being legally intoxicated.

Reducing your risks for preventable accidents begins with making safety a priority and that includes getting sufficient rest or making the right decisions to avoid driving when you’re too tired.

Unfortunately, as our team at Levinson Axelrod, P.A. is well-aware, not everyone makes safe and sensible decisions when they’re behind the wheel, or even when they’re battling fatigue off the road. In fact, fatigue can play a part in many types of personal injury cases, including:

At Levinson Axelrod, P.A., we’ve handled many cases involving car wrecks, workplace injuries, and other preventable accidents caused by fatigue, and are available to discuss your rights and legal options anywhere in the state. To speak with a lawyer during a FREE consultation, call (732) 440-3089 or contact us online to speak with an attorney.

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