There has been an ongoing debate about whether daylight saving time (DST) is a tradition that should continue or if it an antiquated practice that should stop. It may seem like a minor event, but losing an hour of sleep can be dangerous. In fact, according to a number of studies, the time change in March can have a negative impact on the natural sleep cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm.
The time change in springs means that you are losing an hour of sleep. While this may not seem like a significant amount of time, that lost hour of sleep, combined with the fact that the sun rises later, means that there are more drivers on the road who are drowsy.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in addition to feeling tired, the time change in the spring can cause a range of health issues that can increase the risk of a serious car accident. For example, the research revealed a spike in heart attacks, strokes, workplace injuries, and other health issues in the days following the spring forward shift. All of these factors can contribute to a car accident as well.
The study analyzed 732,835 accidents that were recorded by the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System from 1996 to 2017. Researchers found a consistent increase in the number of fatal car accidents that occurred following the time change. In fact, the increase in car accidents was not limited to the Monday after the clocks were moved an hour ahead. The study found that there was a spike in car accidents during the entire week that followed the time shift. The research found that there was a six percent increase in accidents during the five days following the time change.
How Dangerous Is Drowsy Driving?
It is widely accepted that drunk driving is dangerous and can cause serious, even fatal car accidents. However, what many people do not realize is that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
Sleep deprivation can have a similar impact on your coordination, balance, and ability to react to a potentially dangerous situation. Even an hour of lost sleep can disrupt your sleep pattern to the point where your quality of sleep is disrupted. The longer you go without getting the recommended number of hours of sleep, the more of an impact it will have on your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
Studies show that being awake for 18 consecutive hours or more is comparable to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05 percent. If you go without sleep for 24 hours or more, it is equivalent to having a BAC of 0.10 percent.
What Steps Can I Take to Avoid a DST-Related Car Accident?
You may not be able to control the time change or how other motorists prepare for DST. However, you can take proactive steps to avoid some of the common hazards associated with DST.
The following are safety tips that can help you avoid a serious car accident in the days following the time shift:
- Go to bed earlier. In the days leading up to the time change, go to bed approximately 15 minutes earlier than you would normally go to bed. This will give your body a chance to gradually acclimate to the time change. If you are unable to go to bed earlier, try to sleep an extra hour longer the next morning, or take a nap during the day on Sunday.
- Adjust your other routines. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, in addition to going to bed earlier in the days leading up to the time change, it is recommended that you adjust the timing of other routines. For example, consider eating dinner a bit earlier than you would normally eat. If there are other nighttime rituals that you do, move them a bit earlier to cue your body that it is time to go to sleep.
- Change your clocks in the early evening on Saturday. Rather than changing the clocks when you go to bed or waiting until exactly 2:00 a.m. when DST officially starts, consider changing the clocks in the early evening on Saturday, and go to bed at your regular time on Saturday and Sunday night. This will help you adjust to the one hour loss of sleep.
- Work from home if possible. If you have the flexibility to be able to work from home the week following the DST time change, you are urged to take advantage of that and avoid being out on the road. The morning and evening commutes are when motorists are more likely to be exhausted and distracted.
- Take breaks if you are driving a long distance. Long trips can be exhausting, particularly when you have not gotten enough sleep before the trip. If you plan to take a long road trip immediately following the time change, take rest breaks every two hours. If there is another experienced driver in the vehicle, share the driving responsibilities. If you are driving alone, it is important that you take regular breaks to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and give yourself a break from the monotony of driving.
- Use your headlights. If it is dark outside when you are driving to or from work, make sure that you turn on your headlights so that other vehicles can see you. In addition, use your turn signals when appropriate and use extra caution when approaching an intersection or a crosswalk.
- Do not tailgate. If you are driving too close to the vehicle in front of you and you are drowsy, you may not be able to slow down or stop in time to avoid hitting the vehicle. Always leave plenty of distance between your car and the other vehicles on the road.
- Avoid distractions. Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of car accidents in this country. Motorists who are exhausted are also more easily distracted. The combination of drowsy driving and distracted driving can be devastating and even deadly. Keep your attention focused on the road at all times.
- Watch for potholes. Unfortunately, potholes are a common road hazard during the winter and spring. When the water on the roads freezes, it causes the road’s surface to expand and shift. As it thaws, the fractures in the road develop into potholes. Depending on the size of the pothole, they can cause serious damage to your vehicle and increase the risk of an accident. When you are drowsy from losing an hour of sleep or not paying attention to the road ahead, you may not see the pothole until it is too late.
- Keep a pair of sunglasses in the car. If you are driving to work when the sun is rising, extreme sun glare can impact your vision. Make sure that you always have a pair of sunglasses in the vehicle, preferably a pair that has polarized lenses, which help reduce sun glare better than non-polarized lenses.
Springfield Car Accident Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Advocate for Motorists Injured in Drowsy Driving Car Accidents Following the Time Change
If you become involved in a DST-related accident, our Springfield car accident lawyers at Kicklighter Law can help. We will thoroughly review the details of your case, and our dedicated legal team will protect your rights. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. Located in Springfield, Georgia, we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.