Spring Time Change Raises Accident Risks, Studies Show

Residents across California and all but two U.S. states are preparing to “spring forward” this Sunday. Although setting our clocks one hour ahead marks an unofficial start to warmer months and more hours of light, researchers have found reason for everyone to carefully evaluate how the time change can impact their ability to stay safe. That’s because many studies have shown a significant increase in various accidents following Daylight Saving Time – all of which stem from disruption in our usual patterns of sleep.

According to studies conducted in the U.S and other countries that observe Daylight Saving Time, the spring time change can have a significant impact on safety. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Auto accidents – Studies published over the years, including publically funded research from major universities and government agencies like the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), have noted small but significant increases in the number of auto accidents following the spring DST change. This includes a roughly 8 percent increase in traffic collisions resulting in property damage, and a significant spike in highway fatalities on the first Monday after the clocks are advanced one hour ahead.
  • Transportation accidents – In much the same way that the time change results in an increase in auto accidents, researchers have also noticed an increase in collisions involving other forms of transportation. According to the NTSB, fatigue brought on by the one-hour time change has played a role in major transportation collisions, including those involving fatigued train engineers and conductors, as well as public transit, lite rail systems, and buses – although to a lesser degree than motor vehicles.
  • Workplace accidents – Accident risks also increase in the workplace following Daylight Saving Time, especially when springing forward. One study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found a 5.7 percent increase in job-related injuries on the first Monday after DST. What’s more, those accidents were found to result in more severe injuries and more time away from work than accidents that occurred on an average Monday.

Statistics like these help highlight the fact that Daylight Saving Time does come with some risks, which is why everyone should take the time change into account when getting behind the wheel and returning to work in the following week. The most important lesson, however, is that fatigue and disruption in our sleep can have a severe impact on safety, even if it just the 40 average minutes most Americans miss after the DST time change reported by the U.S. CDC.

As research has shown, fatigue is far more dangerous than experts initially anticipated, especially when it involves a driver behind the wheel of a passenger car or commercial truck. In fact, AAA studies have reported that tired motorists can be just as dangerous as drunk drivers. While chronic sleep deprivation is still a major health concern, even missing a few hours of sleep in one night can increase the risks of being involved in a traffic collision. For example, missing 1-2 hours has crash risks comparable to driving with a .08 blood alcohol level (or greater), and getting 4 or fewer hours of sleep makes a person as likely to crash as if they were impaired at twice the legal BAC limit.

We have laws against drunk driving, and nearly every motorist is aware of those laws. Although the risks of driving while fatigued can be similar to driving drunk, however, we still don’t regulate fatigue behind the wheel, and view lack of sleep as an inevitable part of life. That’s why it becomes important for everyone to understand that sleep disruption can have tremendous consequences when it comes to reaction time, awareness, and concentration, and that they can take steps to reduce their risks on the road, including:

  • Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night (recommended by the CDC)
  • Having plans for road trips and long drives (sufficient sleep the night before, planned breaks, overnight stops, and plans to switch off drivers, etc.)
  • Choosing public transportation or other alternatives when possible
  • Ensuring teens, who are most likely to miss out on sleep, are adequately rested before being allowed to drive
  • Pulling over to rest when fatigue affects your ability to drive safely

Unfortunately, not everyone takes reasonable measures in ensuring the safety of others on the road, which is why our laws provide victims of preventable accidents with the right to seek financial compensation from at-fault drivers. Whether your accident was caused by a driver who fell asleep, a drowsy driver who missed a red light, or any other act of negligence or moving violation, our personal injury lawyers at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP are available to help you navigate the personal injury claim process and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP has extensive experience protecting the rights of victims harmed in all types of car accidents across Southern California. To discuss a potential case, contact us for a free consultation.