Is Daylight Savings Time Dangerous?

For most of the U.S. it’s time to reset the clocks and “fall back” this weekend. In other words, at 2 a.m. local time on Sunday the clocks officially roll back to 1 a.m. and people will get an extra hour in bed.

While we all benefit from an extra hour of sleep, research shows drivers need to pay extra attention after the time change.

Carnegie Mellon University research that found people walking near traffic during rush hour in the first few weeks after daylight saving time ends were over three times as likely to be fatally struck by cars than before the change. There was no significant difference in pedestrian accidents at noon, but number rose around 6 p.m. Researchers suggest it isn’t sleep issues or the darkness per se that increases the number of deaths in the fall. Rather, it’s that drivers and pedestrians have spent the previous months getting used to the light conditions, and don’t immediately adjust their behavior to account for less light during the evening rush hour.

The shift from drowsy to asleep can happen more quickly than you realize, which is very dangerous. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the coming weeks and continue driving safely:

  • Ensure all interior lights are off in the car and that onboard navigation devices are dimmed so the bright lights don’t distract you.
  • Be aware of all drivers on the road. Just because you’re wide awake and focused doesn’t mean that your fellow drivers are as well. Be aware of drivers swaying between lanes and abrupt stops.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to get an extra hour of sleep. Don’t stay up later in anticipation of the time change.
  • Increase your exposure to bright light and physical activity during the day and until late afternoon/early evening to help compensate for the overall reduction of daylight hours.
  • Drivers should be extra alert — pull over if you’re driving and feel drowsy. The only cure for sleepiness is sleep. Opening the window or turning up the radio are not effective ways to stay awake.

Whether you spend your whole day behind the wheel or just making the evening commute home, take extra caution the next few weeks as everyone adjusts to the time change to keep yourself safe on the road.

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