For many, daylight saving time (DST) can prove to be a real pain – mainly due to its disturbance of our sacred sleep schedule. But there may be other, more concerning reasons to dislike changing our clocks.
The Impact of the Adjustment Period
Research suggests that due to the adjustment period during which individuals shift to the change in time, there is an increase in car accidents. This is especially evident in the spring, when we lose an hour.
According to some police departments, there may even be up to a 10 percent increase in crashes after the change. There is additional evidence that that number may be conservative.
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder studied DST from March to November for 10 years. They found that traffic incident-related deaths the Monday after the time change in spring saw a 17 percent increase. Additionally, they found that traffic fatalities were increased throughout the whole week after.
One of the contributing factors for the uptick in accidents has to do with the change in visibility. In the spring, when we lose an hour by “springing forward,” it remains darker much later, leaving only 23 hours in the day.
Additionally, although it may not appear to be a big difference, that loss of an hour contributes to sleep deprivation, also causing drivers to be less alert. This is another contributing factor for individuals who only sleep four or five hours on a regular night. They are at a significantly higher risk of causing a car crash than those who sleep more.
Pros and Cons to Year-Round Daylight Savings Time
A study conducted by Rutgers University professors found that pedestrian fatalities would decrease by 171 per year, and motor vehicle occupant fatalities would decrease by 195 per year, if year-round DST were to be implemented.
Alternately, the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) remains against the expansion of DST, due to concerns regarding the safety of children traveling to school in the dark.
Daylight Savings Time & Drowsiness
Though most research on DST generally focuses on the “spring forward” period, there are also downsides to the “fall back” period as well, since the sleep cycle is still greatly altered.
So long as DST remains, experts suggest taking proactive measures. These include going to sleep earlier throughout the adjustment period, remaining cognizant of any signs of drowsiness while driving, and pulling over to the side of the road should it be necessary.
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