Spring ahead and fall back, they say, but do they know the time change causes accidents?
Setting clocks ahead in the spring and back in the fall annoys many people. Beyond the annoyance, car accident experts warn that setting the clock back in the fall increases the number of car accidents.
With smart phones, digital clocks and smart appliances the actual physical task of setting clocks one hour forward or back becomes less and less a reality. Probably like hitching your horse and buggy up to a post.
But in Massachusetts, where bad drivers enjoy a well-known reputation, the annual fall back actually jacks up the accident rate.
Data Shows More Car Accidents After Setting Clocks Back
A study by AAA Northeast finds an increase in accidents during the time period between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm. The time frame includes the dreaded “rush hour” after work. People leaving work at or around 5:00 pm pile onto the highways creating heavy traffic. They notice the harsh reality that the existence of sunny skies after work has ended with the changing seasons.
The study found an average of 581 car accidents happen during that one hour period in the four weeks before the annual time change in November. In the four weeks after the time change the study found 907 Massachusetts car crashes during that same one hour time period. That’s a 55 % increase in car accidents.
The study focused on accident statistics between 2010 and 2016 but was released November 7, 2018.
Setting the Clocks Back and Safety?
Pedestrian accidents also increased during the one hour time period in the four weeks before and then after the fall time change. An average of 10 crashes involving pedestrians took place before, 35 in the four weeks after. That’s more than three times more pedestrians injured in car accidents during the rush hour focus period after the time change.
At first it makes little or no sense. After all, when we turn the clocks back the first weekend of November, we all get an extra hour of sleep. We should be more rested and better drivers, right?
Interrupted Sleep Patterns
Then again AAA Northeast spokesperson Mary Maguire suggests that lots of people simply do not sleep well right after the clocks go back, which may lead to drowsy driving. Drowsy drivers potentially not paying attention or even nodding off obviously present a major potential danger on the highways.
“…in the weeks after we change the clocks, many people don’t sleep as well, and that can lead to drowsy driving, which poses a significant danger on our roadways”.
Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. We pointed out in another blog article that one in three drivers admit they’ve driven while nodding off.
Why Does Daylight Savings Time Cause Car Accidents?
I’m not a clinical psychologist. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice people’s moods change as the final glimmers of warmer summer or even early fall weather give way to shorter and darker days. The clinical psychologists do tell us about “S.A.D.” or Seasonal Affective Disorder. People who are depressed or simply not up to their usual perky selves can’t be as sharp driving as they normally are.
A final reason for the spike in car accidents after Daylight Savings Time could be that people are simply used to driving in full light conditions. Getting used to darker skies and roadways in early November forces us all to pay more attention to darker murkier roadways, where before there was light.
How To Avoid Accidents When Evenings are Darker
The AAA says leave more room between your car and the car in front to give you more braking distance. Make sure you get enough sleep. Insist that new, teen drivers get adequate sleep. Finally, think about a cup of coffee or an energy drink before you hit the road.
The specific study we’re talking about in this article looked at Massachusetts accidents and drivers. To be fair, other previous studies elsewhere around the USA have also shown increased accidents after the November time change, even if not quite as dramatic.
This article was written by Attorney Andrew D. Myers, a personal injury lawyer with offices in both North Andover, Massachusetts and Derry, New Hampshire. If you have been injured in a car accident that was not your fault, contact the office as soon as possible after your accident to get started in placing your claim on the right track.
“Feel Tired Driving Home From Work This Week? Your Not Alone”, American Automobile Association (AAA) Northeast study, November 7, 2018. Link.