Daylight Savings Leads to a Spike in Car Crashes

By Griff O'Hanlon, Portsmouth Personal Injury Lawyer

Daylight savings begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday when the clocks spring forward an hour. Although waking up an hour early may be a drag, the lighter nights usher in spring.

However, few people realize how dangerous daylight savings time can be on the roads. It could cost you more than an hour of sleep, and you have a greater chance of losing your life, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder study on daylight savings.

More accidents are recorded under daylight savings

The research highlighted how fatal motor vehicle accidents spike the first six days after the clocks spring ahead in March.  The study, "Spring Forward at your Own Risk: Daylight Savings Time and Fatal Vehicle Crashes" was authored by Austin C. Smith. It noted that in the first six days of daylight saving time there were 302 deaths and a cost of a staggering $2.75 billion over a 10-year period.

Statistics highlighted a 17 percent increase in traffic fatalities on the Monday after the shift. While it’s hard to believe that one hour would make such a difference, the research suggested the single hour causes a significant disruption in sleep cycles.

Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found drivers who sleep just six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a wreck than people who sleep eight hours or more. We see particular problems with sleep deprivation in the trucking industry. Often serious accidents involving tractor trailers in Virginia occur early in the morning.

 Research suggests that sleeping less than 5 hours a night increases the risk of having a wreck four to five times. The AAA also finds more than 250,000 people fall asleep at the wheel, some for a just a microsecond. Just a few seconds of drowsiness can be the difference between life and death.

"When the clocks change — whether it is falling back or springing forward, peoples' sleep cycles are interrupted, and when sleep cycles are interrupted, they tend to be drowsy," stated Mary Maguire of AAA.

It’s interesting to note, a spike in accidents is also seen after the clocks spring back in the fall when drivers should benefit from an hour more sleep.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed there are more accidents after both the spring and fall changes. In the fall, the extra hour also appears to disrupt people’s sleep cycles makes them more drowsy.

There are certainly some questions about whether the clocks should be adjusted at all. Daylight Savings changes date to the Standard Time Act of 1918 when there was a need to cut back on coal use and energy during the war.

Be extra careful if you are driving on the roads next week and pull over and get a coffee if you feel drowsy. If you are injured due to the actions of a drowsy driver, call us for a free consultation at (757) 455-0077.

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