Aaron Widmar
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Why Car Accidents Increase After Daylight Savings Time Begins

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person looking at clock on wristwatch
Losing an hour of sleep affects more than just your clock
Photo: Yamashita Yohei via CC

Now that March is here again, daylight savings time returns to move your clocks ahead one hour and force you to wake up early. However, its effect on your life is far greater than robbing you of a much-beloved hour of sleep.

Multiple studies have found that daylight savings time actually affects everyone’s safety, such as a 5.7 percent increase in workplace injuries and a significant rise in automotive accidents (according to U.S. Department of Labor and Mine Safety and Health Administration data). Here’s a look at why daylight savings time is dangerous for drivers.

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How daylight savings affects public safety

A 1992 study by the University of British Columbia professor Stanley Coren entitled “Sleep Deficit, Fatal Accidents, and the Spring Shift to Daylight Savings Time” noted a 17-percent jump in traffic accidents the Monday following “springing” clocks ahead. It was based on data from 366,910 U.S. traffic deaths that occurred between 1986-1995.

An earlier study by Coren found that auto accidents were 8 percent higher the week following the onset of daylight savings time versus the week prior.

As reported by New York Daily News, some critics believe daylight savings time forces society into a state of chronic sleep deprivation, while others believe the increase in traffic accidents is due to darker morning commutes. 

Most people (myself included) claim it takes a week for their bodies to adjust to the change in schedule and sunlight, and experts like Virginia Tech Transportation Institute expert Jeff Hickman assert that the clock change results in fatigue and drowsy morning commutes. Thus, the result is an annual increase in car wrecks for the workdays following.

In this day and age, we’re all wondering if daylight savings time is even worth having anymore. Until it gets discontinued, be sure to get some extra sleep to adjust yet again to the new schedule this month.

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