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Studies Show Spike in Fatal Car Wrecks Following Daylight Saving Time

Posted By Montee Law Firm, P.C. || 1-Mar-2018

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is fast approaching. Though turning the clocks and hour ahead and “springing forward” brings the benefit of more daylight, it also poses increased risks of car accidents, according to a number of studies.

Once adopted as a means to conserve energy, Daylight Saving Time has been a subject of debate over the years. Many of the 48 U.S. states that currently adhere to the practice have long suggested doing away with the bi-annual time shift, citing the fact that it no longer has the benefits it once did, especially as electricity and efficient lighting cut considerable costs. Many backers who want to stray from DST also note the increased risks of auto wrecks, as well as the injuries and deaths they cause, as more reason to put an end to Daylight Saving Time.

In one notable study conducted by research staff at Johns Hopkins and Stanford universities, researchers reviewed more than 20 years of auto accident statistics from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Their findings showed a significant spike in fatal car accidents following the DST adjustment in spring, especially on the first Monday following the Sunday morning time change. While typical Mondays see an average of 78.2 fatal accidents, the number of deadly crashes rose to 83.5 on the Monday following Daylight Saving Time. Those findings have been supported by a number of other studies, including one from the U.S. NCBI, and another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1996 that showed a roughly 8% increase in all traffic accidents after the spring DST change.

Fatigued Driving: A Serious Danger

Experts note that the risks of fatal collisions are highest on the first Monday after the time change, and that they slowly decline over the following weeks. This serves to highlight just how significantly even minor sleep disruptions can affect a driver’s ability to safely operate their vehicle, as well as the overall dangers of fatigued and drowsy driving.

As we have discussed in some of our blog posts, driver fatigue is a serious problem on America’s roadways, causing an estimated 6,000 auto accidents each year, as well as hundreds of injuries and deaths according to NHTSA. That’s due largely to the fact that drivers who get less sleep have decreased situational awareness and reaction time, and because they are more likely to lose focus. In fact, one study from AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety showed just how dangerous drowsy driving is:

  • Researchers found that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. According to the AAA study, drivers who get 5 or fewer hours of sleep in a single night have crash risks equal to drivers with blood alcohol levels at or above the legal limit!
  • Drivers who miss one or two hours of sleep in a night can nearly double their crash risks.
  • Crash risks associated with less than 4 hours of sleep are comparable to having a blood alcohol twice the legal limit.

Because such a large percentage of Americans report getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep a night, driver fatigue is an ever-present danger. Chronic sleep deprivation can also be exacerbated by factors like Daylight Saving Time, which may take drivers days or weeks to recover from.

Avoiding Drowsy Driving

With such significant risks, it is important for all drivers to get adequate sleep. That means prioritizing healthy sleeping habits, shooting for at least 7 hours of quality sleep a night, and ensuring you’re well rested prior to getting behind the wheel, especially if you have an early morning commute or you are planning a longer drive or road trip. Experts also recommend that drivers who find themselves getting drowsy behind the wheel should pull over to take a break or, if possible, exchange driving responsibilities with another licensed driver.

Unfortunately, not everyone upholds their legal obligation of safely operating a motor vehicle, especially when it comes to something as commonplace as being tired. Although being sleepy or fatigued is common, especially among working American adults and teens, it is still a highly dangerous act that puts others in harm’s way. When tired drivers do cause wrecks – whether it be the result of falling asleep at the wheel, running a red light, or making some other driving error or traffic infraction – they can be held accountable for negligence, and liable for any accidents and injuries they cause.

Our legal team at Montee Law Firm, P.C. encourages everyone to evaluate their sleeping habits in order to reduce their risks, and to be extra vigilant in the days following Daylight Saving Time. Our Kansas City car accident lawyers are also readily available to help victims harmed in preventable wrecks learn more about their legal rights, whether they have a potential personal injury case, and how we can help. To discuss your case, contact us for a free consultation.

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