Many people love to “spring forward” and gain an extra hour of evening light but could this time shift be deadly? According to research from the University of Colorado Boulder, traffic accidents increase by 6 percent in the week after clocks go forward. In terms of health, hospitals also see a 24 percent increase in heart attacks, as compared to a 21 percent decrease when we turn the clocks back.

About the Study

female driver yawningThe researchers looked at 732,835 traffic accidents reported to the US Fatality Analysis Reporting System from 1996 through 2017, excluding Arizona and Indiana, who do not observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). Their analysis showed a consistent increase in fatal accidents in the week following “spring forward”.

The study identified an average of 28 fatal accidents that could be prevented, if Daylight Saving Time were not observed. The researchers concluded it would be better for our circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock – and overall health to stop this annual occurrence.

Focus On Sleep

Lack of sleep and the transition to darker morning commutes are two factors that may contribute to the increase in traffic accidents. In general, we are more alert and have better reaction times after a good night’s sleep, which both contribute to safe driving.

The researchers in the University of Colorado Boulder study compared drowsy driving to operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

“Both drowsy driving and drunk driving negatively impact how well you can make fast decisions, lead to delayed reaction times, and make it hard to pay attention to the road and properly assess potential hazards,” said study co-author Josef Fritz, PhD.

To combat these risks, health experts generally recommend prioritizing sleep during and after the spring transition. It will take some time for the body to readjust, so maintaining a regular sleep cycle is essential.

Factors like eating dinner late, playing on our phones and watching TV before bed expose us to light that can stimulate nerve pathways to the brain. When these pathways are activated, it can prevent us from falling asleep. Before bed, slow your body down and avoid raising your core temperature, which can cause sleep issues.

General Accident Prevention

No matter the time of year, we can all do our part to prevent car accidents. When you get behind the wheel, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Do Not Follow Too Close: Allow enough space between yourself and other drivers to anticipate quick braking and other sudden maneuvers.
  • Follow the Rules of the Road: Always adhere to the speed limit, do not run red lights, avoid distractions and never drive under the influence.
  • Pay Attention to Weather: When the weather is poor, adhere to the conditions (i.e. rain, snow, sleet). Slow down or pull over in a safe spot until conditions improve.
  • Watch Out for Hazards: Particularly in spring, this could be leftover road salt and sand, potholes, pedestrians or animals crossing the road.

Whether due to poor visibility or distracted behavior, many motor vehicle accidents are preventable. If you’ve been injured by a careless driver, contact our team of experienced auto accident attorneys today.