As we approach the dreaded time of the year when we lose an hour of sleep and are forced to undertake the bi-annual routine of changing all the clocks in our lives, it appears the complications don’t end there. A new study by the University of Colorado Boulder reports that car accidents see a major spike in the 6 days after we spring ahead.
In the study by Austin C. Smith, “Spring Forward at your Own Risk: Daylight Savings Time and Fatal Vehicle Crashes”, the evidence found that U.S. drivers suffer an average of three hundred and two deaths during the six days after the adjustment. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, traffic fatalities on the Monday after the shift increase by 17% alone. The study also found that the cost associated with these deaths exceeds 2.75 billion dollars over a ten year period.
Daylight savings time, also know as ‘summer time’, is the practice of adjusting our clocks forward by one hour near the beginning of spring and adjusting them backward in the autumn to ‘normal time’. The change occurs at 2:00 a.m., and the loss of the hour is always felt more than the gain. The practice allows sunlight to extend further into the evening hours at the expense of the morning. It is reported to benefit sporting events, retailing, as well as other activities that exploit sunlight after normal working hours. Those opposed to the practice argue a disruption to meetings, travel, sleep patterns, billing, record keeping, and health consequences.
The new study by the University of Colorado Boulder focuses on the disruption of sleep cycles from the practice and its relation to car accidents. Springing forward by an hour means that the sun rises later in comparison to our daily routines. This results in a darker morning routine, reduced visibility while driving to work, slower reaction times, and increased drowsy driving. Springing forward results in a sudden loss of an hour of sleep on Sunday morning without adequate time to readjust by our Monday morning commute, causing the 17% spike in fatal crashes.
Studies report that drowsy driving can be every bit as dangerous as distracted driving and in some cases, impaired driving. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that those of us sleeping 6-7 hours per night are almost 2x more likely to be involved in a crash than those getting 8 hours or more of rest. The foundation has also found that the number of people falling asleep at the wheel, even if for a split second only, tops 250,000 per year.
Safe Driving Practices After Springing Forward
Given the countless known dangers associated with drowsy driving, a little planning can go a long way towards eliminating unnecessary injuries and fatalities. It is important to plan ahead and adjust your routine so that you can make up for the lost hour of sleep by getting to bed early, or sleeping in. In addition, try to budget time for an extended morning routine for the 6 plus days following the adjustment. Waking up early and exercising, eating breakfast or reading can help compensate for the lack of morning sunlight which would otherwise naturally help you awake. Being up and active before jumping in your car for the morning commute can help reduce traffic accidents and save countless lives.
Stay safe and be alert!