Does the Daylight Saving Time Change Increase the Risk of Car Accidents?

Although many parts of the country are still experiencing snow, ice, and freezing temperatures, spring officially starts on March 21, which is less than a month away. One of the first signs of spring is Daylight Saving Time, which occurs on March 14, 2021. Unfortunately, according to multiple studies, the time change is also associated with an increase in drowsy driving-related car accidents resulting from the lost hour of sleep and commuters being unaccustomed to driving in the dark the Monday following the time change. If a motorist is involved in a car accident following the time change, they are urged to contact an experienced car accident lawyer, who can assist them with the claims process.

What are the Risks Associated with Daylight Saving Time?

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder found that there was a six percent increase in fatal car accidents during the week following the so-called spring forward time change. This resulted in approximately 28 additional fatalities each year. The study authors believe that the actual number of accidents is likely higher, as the research only looked at the most severe car accidents associated with the spring forward time change. The study also found that the risk of being in a deadly car accident increased the farther west a person lived in his or her time zone.

For example, people who live on the western edge of their time zone already get up to 19 minutes less sleep per day compared with the people who live in the east because the sun rises and sets later. Yet, they still have to report to work at the same time as everyone else. According to the lead author of the study, the study proves that the time change in March has negative health and safety impacts. In addition, the author said, these tragic fatalities can be prevented.

What were the Highlights of the Study?

Researchers reviewed 732,835 car accidents that were recorded through the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System from 1996 to 2017. Arizona and Indiana were not included in the report, as they do not consistently observe Daylight Saving Time. Most of the car accidents occurred in the mornings during the week following the time change. Researchers attributed this to the lost hour of sleep, which increased the number of drowsy drivers on the road. In addition, commuters were not used to driving to work in the dark immediately following the time change. Overall, approximately 627 people were fatally injured in car accidents that were linked to the spring forward time change. According to the lead author, the study offers conclusive evidence about the impact that Daylight Saving Time has on fatal car accidents.

The researchers suggest that doing away with daylight saving time completely would improve public health and support people’s natural circadian rhythms, which are the 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock. The sleep-wake cycle is one of the most important circadian rhythms. When the circadian rhythm is thrown off, the body’s systems may not function optimally. The main author of the study, who is a circadian biologist, believes that switching to standard time permanently would be better for sleep and overall health because there would be more morning light and less evening light. Permanent Daylight Saving Time means that mornings stay dark later in the winter, particularly in the western parts of each time zone.

How Serious is Drowsy Driving?

Drowsy driving is one of the most common causes of car accidents. In fact, according to the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA), in 2017, there were approximately 91,000 drowsy driving-related car accidents in the United States. These resulted in roughly 50,000 personal injuries and 800 fatalities, many of which could have been prevented if the drowsy driver made the safe and responsible choice to avoid getting behind the wheel until he or she was well rested.

Research from the AAA Foundation found the following drowsy driving-related statistics:

  • Motorists who have gotten less than five hours of sleep have a similar accident risk as someone who is driving drunk.
  • Although 96 percent of motorists believe that drowsy driving is unacceptable and that it is a serious threat to their safety, close to 30 percent of those drivers admitted to driving when they were so exhausted that they had trouble keeping their eyes open. In fact, they admitted that this occurred at least once within the past 30 days.
  • Depending on how much sleep deprivation a driver is experiencing, drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, both of which have a negative impact on the ability to make quick decisions or react quickly to a hazardous situation. In addition, in both cases, the drivers often have a difficult time paying attention to the road.

How can I Avoid a Drowsy Driving Accident?

Whether it is the Monday following the Daylight Saving Time change, or any other time of the year, motorists should avoid driving when they are tired. However, too many motorists do not take drowsy driving seriously. They do not believe it is as dangerous as drunk driving, distracted driving, speeding, or reckless driving. The AAA Foundation and Farmers Insurance offer the following recommendations that can help drivers make safer choices and avoid drowsy driving accidents:

  • Motorists should not rely solely on the warning signs of drowsiness when deciding whether to get behind the wheel. Instead, they should think twice about driving any time they get less than seven hours of sleep.
  • Drivers should prepare for the time change by getting plenty of sleep in the days leading up to the transition.
  • When driving for an extended period, motorists should do the bulk of the driving during the daytime hours.
  • It is best to avoid driving after a large meal of heavy foods. This can cause extreme drowsiness.
  • Motorists can drink a caffeinated beverage. Although this is not a cure-all, caffeine is a stimulant, so it can help make motorists feel more alert for a short period of time. It is important to keep in mind that the drowsiness will return as the caffeine wears off.
  • Motorists should not drive when taking medication that can cause drowsiness.
  • The headlights, taillights, signal lights, and windows of a vehicle should be clean. High beams should be used only when necessary, and they should be turned off when another vehicle is approaching.
  • Drivers should recognize the common signs of drowsiness, including frequent yawning, increased blinking, feelings of dozing off, drifting into other lanes, and difficulty maintaining the appropriate speed. It is best to find a safe place to pull over if drowsiness sets in.
  • The transition from winter to spring can make road conditions less than ideal. There are often large potholes, which can damage vehicles and cause a motorist to lose control of the vehicle, particularly if he or she is drowsy.
  • Motorists are urged to check their car’s tires regularly. Daylight Saving Time is a good reminder to ensure that the vehicle’s tires are properly inflated and that the tread is not worn. If the tire pressure is low, the tires should be inflated to the recommended level as soon as possible.
  • Drivers should not tailgate. When motorists drive too close to the vehicle they are following, there is an increased risk for a rear-end accident if the vehicle in front stops short.
  • Motorists should make sure that their cell phone is fully charged before getting behind the wheel.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Drowsy Driving Car Accidents

If you were seriously injured in a car accident following the Daylight Saving Time change, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will conduct a thorough investigation into the details of the accident and determine who is responsible for causing the accident. Drowsy driving is a serious issue and losing an hour of sleep can increase the risk of a drowsy driving-related car accident. Our dedicated legal team will assist you with the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.