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Does daylight savings time effect our health and driving?

On Behalf of | Apr 7, 2017 | Auto Accidents

Presumably, there were good intentions behind the concept of Daylight Savings Time. Twice a year, the clock is adjusted in order to make better use of the lingering daylight in the summertime and the dwindling daytime hours in the winter. As the adage goes, you need to spring forward one hour and fall back an hour. While this accomplishes the goal of conserving energy and improving the use of the existing daylight hours, there are an increasing number of people who absolutely dread these time changes.

So this begs the question: Does Daylight Savings Time (DST) impact our health? Does it make it more dangerous or difficult for us to drive? According to Journalist’s Resource, there’s recent research that indicates that the Daylight Savings Time system is negatively effecting both the physical and mental well-being of a significant number of people across America. As this research gains notoriety, many people also are noting that Daylight Savings Time is an outdated tradition that is no longer necessary in our 21st century world. We no longer need to rely on the sunlight in order to be productive, as generations in the past did. 

Which time change is most dangerous?

Experts have found that the spring time change is more challenging for people to adapt to than the fall time change. When the clocks are moved forward an hour in March, people are forced to lose an hour of sleep. This means that they have to begin the long week ahead feeling tired and sleep-deprived, and it can also alter a person’s appetite. A lost hour of sleep might mean a late start to a high school student’s day, and they may skip breakfast entirely because they aren’t hungry. Now they are heading out onto the road overtired and without proper morning nourishment. 

Does DST impact general health? 

Researchers have discovered that the spring time change increases the risk of health issues, ranging from common illnesses like the cold and flu to the more serious health concerns, such as heart attacks. A young adult who is not getting enough sleep is more likely to become ill with a virus, as lack of sleep can compromise the immune system. Conversely, the fall time change — which gives people an extra hour of sleep (if they take advantage of it by getting to bed at their usual time) — actually seems to provide a dose of immune support. People are relatively healthier immediately following the transition back to Standard Time.

How does it effect an individual’s ability to drive?

The same studies have shown that the Daylight Savings Time change in the spring results in an increase in car accidents. Many of these accidents lead to injuries, and some unfortunately end in fatalities. One study from 2012 claimed that 30 traffic deaths occurred following the spring time change, which resulted in $275 million in costs. The study noted that the increase in car accidents is not only due to the lost hour of sleep, but also the change in ambient light that occurs during the morning and evening commutes. 

Tips for driving after springing forward:

  • Try to adjust your body’s clock ahead of the time change. In the week leading up to the change, go to bed about 15 minutes earlier each night, to slowly adjust. 
  • If you feel too tired to drive the morning after the time change, opt to go into work or school a little bit later. It’s better to arrive late and safe than to never arrive at all.
  • Be prepared with the supplies you need in your car. The sun may be shining on your way home in the evening, so make sure your sunglasses are available so that you can see well throughout your entire commute. 
  • While you should never text while driving or succumb to other distractions, it’s more important than ever to avoid distractions after the time change. You are already fatigued, and distractions will significantly increase your risk of getting into a motor vehicle crash.

To learn more about what you need to do in the event of an accident, contact our firm today.