Does Daylight Saving Time Increase the Risk of Nighttime Car Accidents?
October 29, 2020
On Sunday, November 1, parts of the United States will turn the clocks back an hour as Daylight Savings Time comes to an end. Commuters who leave work after 5:00 p.m. may be driving home in the dark. While the extra hour of sleep is a bonus, it can disrupt regular sleep patterns, which can cause drowsiness, irritability, and mental exhaustion. The disruption in sleep, combined with adjusting to driving home in the dark, can result in a spike in nighttime car accidents.
What are the Dangers Associated with Disrupted Sleep?
Despite the hour of sleep that people gain, few commuters and motorists realize how much of an impact one hour of sleep disruption can have on their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, particularly when driving home in the dark after a long day at work. Drowsy driving is a serious safety issue, one that many motorists do not take as seriously as they should. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving was responsible for approximately 72,000 accidents, 44,000 injuries, and 846 fatalities. Unfortunately, the actual numbers are likely much higher, since people do not always admit when they were drowsy or that they fell asleep at the wheel.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. In fact, being awake for 18 hours straight can have the same impact on a driver as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05. In addition to drowsy driving, disrupted sleep can have the following impact on one’s health, which can increase the risk of a nighttime car accident:
- Negative effect on mood: Disruptions in sleep and sleep deprivation can throw off a person’s hormonal balance. This can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability, and mental exhaustion. When a person is experiencing these feelings while driving a car, they may be less focused, less attentive, and have a delayed reaction time to an unexpected traffic incident, such as getting cut off by another motorist or an animal running across the street at night. Daylight Saving Time can have a particular impact on adolescents.
- Increased risk of stroke: According to the American Academy of Neurology, the time transition may be associated with a temporary increase in the risk of ischemic stroke. The disruption in a person’s circadian rhythm when turning the clock an hour ahead or an hour behind can increase the risk of an ischemic stroke. Researchers found that there was an eight percent increase in the overall rate of ischemic stroke during the two days following the time change.
According to the National Safety Council, traffic fatalities are three times more likely to occur after dark compared to during daylight hours. This can be attributed to the fact that when it starts getting dark outside, the body has a natural urge to relax. That tendency, combined with the loss of an hour of sleep, can have devastating consequences when an individual gets behind the wheel of a car.
Who is at the Greatest Risk for Nighttime Car Accidents?
There are certain drivers who are already at an increased risk for nighttime car accidents, including commercial truck drivers and workers who operate tow trucks, buses, and tractor trailers. The National Sleep Foundation reports that people who work over 60 hours a week are at a 40 percent greater risk of being in a car accident. Losing an hour of sleep at the end of Daylight Saving Time, combined with an existing pattern of getting too little sleep, can have devastating consequences.
What can I Do to Avoid a Nighttime Car Accident?
When motorists are driving at night, not only are they more likely to become drowsy, but it is more difficult to see when it is dark outside. The Department of Transportation (DOT) offers the following safety tips to ensure that the driver and other motorists on the road can see adequately:
Safety Tips for Drivers
- Drivers should be sure that all headlights, parking lights, turn signals, taillights, brake lights, and other interior lights are in good working order. If any repairs or replacements need to be made, they should be taken care of as soon as possible.
- The rearview and side mirrors should be checked, making sure that they do not have any cracks.
- When driving at night, drivers should use the night setting on the rearview mirror to prevent glare from headlights.
- The vehicle’s headlights should be properly adjusted so that they are aimed properly.
- Motorists should use high beams only when there are no vehicles approaching. They should switch to low beams as soon as an oncoming vehicle approaches.
- Extra caution must be used when driving at night, particularly if traveling in an area where there might be pedestrians and bicyclists sharing the road or crossing the street.
- As the sun goes down, it is no longer necessary to wear sunglasses. Drivers may forget they are wearing them, but they can impact visibility as it gets dark.
- When driving at night, motorists should keep their gaze moving from side to side rather than focusing only on the center line or the road ahead, which can cause what is known as highway hypnosis.
- Drivers should get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- It is important to maintain a regular sleep routine. Drivers should go to bed at the same time, even after getting an extra hour of sleep. This prevents a disruption in the sleep pattern and helps the driver benefit from the extra hour of sleep.
- Motorists should allow for extra time to arrive at their destination.
- Drivers should avoid speeding, particularly if driving during inclement weather.
- Drivers should not tailgate or engage in any other type of dangerous driving behavior.
- Motorists should avoid alcohol or medications that cause drowsiness. Either of these can have devastating consequences when a driver gets behind the wheel of a car. Mixing the two can be particularly deadly, as it can cause extreme impairments, particularly when combined with feelings of drowsiness.
- Drivers must be aware of the signs of drowsiness, including yawning, excessive blinking, drifting in and out of lanes, or missing an exit. Drowsy drivers should pull over to a safe, well-lit spot and get some fresh air, or take a short nap before getting back on the road.
Safety Tips for Pedestrians
Pedestrians can take proactive steps to ensure that they are visible to other drivers if they are walking at night:
- Pedestrians should wear bright colored clothing, reflective gear, or carry a flashlight so that they can be easily seen by motorists.
- Those on foot should cross the street only at a crosswalk, making sure there are no cars coming from either direction when crossing the street.
- Pedestrians should stay on the sidewalks if possible. If someone must walk in the street, they should face oncoming traffic.
Reading Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Seek Compensation for Victims of Nighttime Car Accidents
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a nighttime car accident after the time change, you are urged to contact the Reading personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP at your earliest convenience. We will thoroughly review the details of your case and ensure that you receive the assistance you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, please call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we help clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.