The Dangers of Driving After Daylight Savings

Research suggests that the switch to daylight savings time (DST) isn’t just an inconvenience: it’s dangerous. One study found that the rate of car crashes increased on the Monday after spring DST and the Sunday after fall DST.

Most people are unaware of how dangerous driving can be once the clocks change. Explore the risks of driving after daylight savings time and how Cofman Townsley can support you if you’ve been injured in a post-DST car accident.

How Daylight Savings Increases the Risk of Crashes

Daylight savings time disrupts your circadian rhythm or the internal clock. The body has to adjust to gaining or losing an hour of daylight in addition to an hour from your typical sleep schedule. Losing this hour has a significant impact on driving safety.

  • Sleep Deprivation

Drowsy driving is dangerous at any time of year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it caused 633 fatal accidents nationwide in 2020. Sleep deprivation impairs the ability to make decisions, react quickly, and take in your full surroundings, which are essential to avoid crashes while driving.

Setting the clock forward in springtime causes you to lose an hour of sleep. This lost hour puts more drowsy drivers on the road. A 2022 study confirmed that sleep loss impacts driving ability, with drivers performing worse on a driving simulator after switching to DST.

  • Different Light Conditions

Driving in the dark alters visibility, but driving when the sun rises or sets can be similarly dangerous. If the sun is positioned where your sun visor can’t block it, you’ll be forced to drive with the sun in your eyes. Changing the clocks for DST means that the sun is positioned differently during your daily commute.

In the spring, many people commute to work before or during sunrise, resulting in a combination of drowsy driving and driving in the dark. While fewer people drive to work in the dark during the fall, they often commute home during or after sunset. Both of these situations can increase the risk of crashes.

  • Increased Alcohol Use

Crash rates don’t decrease when the clocks fall back. Even though fall DST doesn’t result in drowsy driving, the extra hour in the day opens up opportunities for risky driving behavior. For example, during the switch to fall DST, alcohol use slightly increases, potentially increasing the risk of drunk drivers.

Staying Safe on the Road After DST

It isn’t possible to prevent DST from disrupting your circadian rhythm. However, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from crashes after the clocks change.

  • Stick to Your Sleep Schedule

Go to bed at the same time you usually do, even if you expect to gain an hour. Staying up late can cause more severe disruptions to your sleep schedule, making it harder to get adequate sleep throughout the week.

Try to avoid napping for long periods during the day. Napping further disrupts your sleep schedule and prevents you from getting a full night’s sleep.

  • Drive for Shorter Periods

Driving for several hours results in fatigue. If you need to drive long distances, take periodic breaks: either stop driving or rotate drivers. Pull over and take a 20-minute power nap if you are driving alone and having trouble staying awake.

  • Drive on City Streets

Highways and other long stretches of road often have little changes in the scenery and few or no interruptions. This makes it easy to stop paying attention or fall asleep at the wheel. If you can get to your destination by taking the city streets of St. Louis rather than the highway, take the city streets because the changing scenery and turning or stopping at intersections help you stay alert.

  • Increase the Distance Between Cars

The National Safety Council recommends leaving a 3-second gap between your car and the vehicle ahead of you. Consider increasing your distance to 4 or 5 seconds when the clocks change. This allows you more time to react and brake safely.

How an Attorney Can Help After a DST Car Crash

Even if you take steps to stay safe on the road after the time changes, you can’t control others on the road. You or a loved one can easily become a victim of a car accident resulting in serious injuries. These injuries can cause exorbitant medical bills, force you to take time off work, and even cause permanent disability or death.

A car accident attorney familiar with Missouri law, like Cofman Townsley, can help you recover damages after an accident. Cofman Townsley can build a case to prove the other driver is at fault and negotiate with insurance companies to ensure your medical bills are covered. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.