Daylight Savings: Prepare Yourself to Drive After the Time Change

Daylight Saving Time (DST) comes to an end each fall, signaling the time to turn our clocks back an hour. While an extra hour of sleep may seem like a welcome change, research shows that this seemingly minor adjustment can affect public safety, particularly on the roads.

Explore statistics that show an uptick in accidents during the days following the fall time change and learn tips to help you prepare and stay safe.

Eye-Opening Fall DST Statistics

While the focus for many drivers is on the dangers associated with the springtime transition into DST, the late fall time change is far from risk-free. Various sources indicate that accidents, including fatal ones, tend to spike in the week immediately following the end of DST in the fall.

The National Safety Council reports that in 2021, fatal crashes peaked during hours affected by the change in DST. From November to March (when DST is typically reinstated), fatal crashes increased between 4 p.m. and 7:59 p.m.

In Missouri, November had the highest number of crashes in 2022, at 11,195. This included 62 fatal crashes. DST changed on November 6, 2022, meaning that some of these accidents were likely due to the time difference’s impact on visibility and sleep patterns.

Fall is the mating season for deer, so they are much more active during this time. A 2022 study found that reduced visibility and increased deer activity have led to a 16% increase in accidents involving deer. The study estimated that nearly 33 human fatalities and 2,054 human injuries could be prevented annually by not turning the clocks back in the fall.

Why Does This Uptick Happen in Fall?

The end of DST in the fall brings about several conditions that contribute to increased risks on the road.

  • Reduced visibility: With the clock turning back one hour, it gets darker earlier. The sudden shift in lighting conditions can make it more difficult for drivers to see pedestrians, cyclists, and even other vehicles, leading to an increased risk of accidents.
  • Sleep disruption: Though it may seem like gaining an extra hour of sleep should be beneficial, the reality is that any alteration to our sleep cycle can disrupt our circadian rhythms. This disruption can lead to various problems, including impaired judgment and slower reaction times—major factors in accidents.

According to a 2023 study reported by the Sleep Foundation, fall DST reversal may be particularly disruptive to sleep. The study found a 115.2% increase in trouble falling asleep, a 102.8% rise in excessive daytime fatigue or hypersomnia, a 64% increase in challenges staying asleep, and a 34% rise in overall sleep dissatisfaction the week after the time change.

  • Morning and evening commute changes: As DST concludes, natural light during typical commuting hours shifts. Mornings become darker, while evenings see an earlier onset of dusk. This sudden change can make it more dangerous for those used to traveling during daylight.

Altered visibility conditions can increase the risk of collisions. It can also lead to hazardous conditions for workers, especially road crews that operate in the early morning hours as commuters adjust to the change in lighting.

Tips for Navigating the Fall DST Driving Period Safely

As the end of DST approaches, it requires awareness and preparation to navigate the roads safely. To help ensure a safer driving experience during this transition, consider the following tips:

  • Adjust sleep schedules gradually: A few days before the end of DST, consider adjusting your sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up 15 minutes later each day. This gradual shift can help your body adapt to the new time, reducing the chances of sleep deprivation. Staying well-rested can improve alertness on the road and overall well-being.
  • Check your vehicle’s lights: An important aspect of safe driving in darker conditions is ensuring all your vehicle’s lights function correctly. Check headlights, brake lights, and signal lights for optimal performance. Also make sure they are clean to maximize visibility and signal your intentions to other drivers.
  • Be cautious in school zones: With the time change, children may be walking to school or waiting for the school bus in darker conditions. Drivers should be extra cautious in school zones. Reduce your speed, obey all traffic signs, and watch for children crossing the street.
  • Limit distractions: Put away mobile phones and other distractions, especially during the first week following the time change. Your full attention should be on your driving and the road.
  • Consider public transport or carpooling: If you’re not confident about driving in the darker conditions, consider alternative means of transportation. This can include buses or carpooling with someone more comfortable driving under these conditions.
  • Avoid rushing: The time change can throw off your internal clock, making you feel like you’re running late even when you’re not. To avoid feeling rushed, leave at least 15 minutes earlier than usual for commutes or appointments.
  • Seek alternative routes with better lighting: Choose well-lit routes to make your drive safer. Streetlights and other forms of lighting can make a difference in your ability to see and be seen.
  • Be extra alert for pedestrians and cyclists: With the change in lighting conditions, it becomes even more essential to watch out for pedestrians and cyclists. Always yield the right-of-way and keep a safe distance.

Navigating the Clock Change Safely

The transition out of DST in the fall is more than just a simple turn of the clock. It comes with many safety concerns for drivers on the road. Even if you take the appropriate measures to minimize your risk of an accident, a collision can still occur due to another driver’s negligence.

If you are involved in a car accident during the post-fall DST period, contact our law firm for a free case review. At Cofman Townsley, we know the challenges drivers face after a car crash. We can help you pursue all possible legal options to get you the compensation you deserve.