How Daylight Saving Time Affects Your Driving
Twice each year we change our clocks for daylight saving time. Springing ahead to daylight saving time and falling back to standard time can have a surprising impact on your driving.
Here are a few ways your driving behaviors can change when daylight saving time begins each spring and ends each fall.
When Daylight Saving Time Starts in the Spring
A University of Colorado at Boulder study found that fatal car accidents increase by 6% in the week following the start of daylight saving time each spring.
Here are three key factors that contribute to the increase and what you can do about it.
Driving to Work or School in the Dark
When our clocks jump ahead, 7:00 a.m. looks like 6:00 am, so many more people are driving to work or school in the dark. Driving in the dark is always more dangerous than driving in the daylight. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the fatality rate per mile of travel is about three times higher at night than during the day.
Be extra vigilant when driving in the dark. Slow down, leave extra space between you and the vehicle in front of you, avoid distractions, and focus on driving safely.
More People Out on the Drive Home
When it stays lighter later, more people stay outside later. So you may encounter more people on the drive home.
Pay extra attention to pedestrians and bicycles. And always drive through residential neighborhoods with extra care since kids are more likely to be playing outside during the daylight saving months.
Driving With a “Lost” Hour
When our clocks spring forward, we lose an hour. Since the time change happens at 2:00 a.m., most of us lose an hour of sleep. And while an hour of sleep might not sound like a big deal, it has an impact. Did you know that the risk of a heart attack increases by 24% on the Monday after the time change? Our bodies’ circadian rhythms are delicate and one hour makes a difference. And the less sleep we have, the more likely we are to drive drowsy. In 2017, there were 91,000 crashes caused by drowsy drivers, which led to about 50,000 injured people, according to the NHTSA.
Get plenty of sleep leading up to the start of daylight saving. And if you can, go to bed an hour earlier than normal on the night we lose that hour.
When Daylight Saving Time Ends in the Fall
While we don’t necessarily see a statistically important impact on driving habits immediately when daylight saving time ends in the fall, falling back does come with its own driving challenges.
Here are the risks of driving during standard time and what you can do to mitigate them.
Driving Home in the Dark
We’ve already discussed the dangers of driving in the dark. And when we fall behind, it gets darker earlier, so more of us are driving home in the dark. The end of daylight saving time also means we’re entering the period of the year when the northern hemisphere gets fewer hours of total daylight. This means there are more hours of darkness that most of us can’t avoid driving in.
If you haven’t already taken a defensive driving class (or if it’s been a while and you could use a refresher), sign up for an adult driver’s ed course. These courses can be completed online in a matter of hours and can teach you how to drive safer during this extra risky time of year.
More People Dressed in Dark Colors
While spring and summer wardrobes are full of light colors, fall and winter clothes are darker. This can make it harder to see pedestrians when daylight saving time ends and we’re doing more driving in the dark.
Since you can’t control other people’s wardrobes, focus on what you can control: your driving habits. Practice defensive driving techniques and keep an eye out for movement at the sides of the road or near crosswalks.
Prepare for the Time Change With Safer Driving
Regardless of the time of year, most of us can use some additional instruction in safe driving practices to help us build safer driving habits. Not only does safer driving save lives, but it could also save you money on your auto insurance premiums! Enroll in an online adult driver’s ed course today to save lives and money.