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Spike in Auto Accidents After Daylight Saving Time Shows Dangers of Drowsy Driving


“Springing forward” has become a celebrated way for Americans across the country to usher in the spring and summer months. While Daylight Saving Time (which takes place on Sunday March 11, 2018) may bring long days and more evening daylight, statistics show it also brings significant spikes in car accidents, particularly on the week following the early Sunday morning time change.

Over the years, many Americans have debated over the continued observance of Daylight Saving Time (DST), which is currently observed by all but two U.S. states (Arizona and Hawaii). Critics often cite its lack of benefits in a time when energy conservation and electric lighting have become extremely efficient, as well as possible health risks and roadway dangers. In fact, a number of studies have focused exclusively on DST’s impact on public roads and highways:

  • One study published by Johns Hopkins University and Stanford found a significant increase in the number of roadway fatalities following DST’s “spring forward” time change. After reviewing over 20 years of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they found that the average number of wrecks on the Monday after the Sunday time change increased to 83.5, compared to an average of roughly 73 on other Mondays.
  • Various studies, including those based on U.S. and European accident data, found verifiable increased in all traffic accidents (injury and non-injury wrecks) throughout the first week following the time change. One study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted an 8% increase in motor vehicle accidents that resulted in property damage during this time.

These studies play an important role in analyzing the impact Daylight Saving Time can have on public roadways, where drivers are susceptible to increased risks caused by changes in their sleeping patterns. Although it serves as an added reminder for all motorists to be extra vigilant as they return to their work weeks after Sunday’s spring forward time change, the most important lesson to be learned is that even minor disruptions in sleep can have major consequences when it comes to safe driving.

Sleep, Fatigue & Roadway Risks

As we have discussed in previous blog posts, driver fatigue is a serious problem on public roadways, especially in the U.S., where as much as 35% of Americans get less than the 7 hours of sleep recommended by the CDC and where as many as 70% of motorists admit to driving while drowsy. Because the problem of being tired or missing out on sleep is so common, however, many U.S. adults fail to grasp just how dangerous driver fatigue can be. The statistics on this speak for themselves:

  • The NHTSA lists drowsy driving as a factor in tens of thousands of motor vehicle accidents every year, as well as a potential cause or contributing factor in thousands of roadway injuries and deaths.
  • Driver fatigue compromises critical abilities drivers need to safely operate their vehicles, including their ability to focus, maintain situational awareness, react to collision-critical situations, and more.
  • The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, even when the problem stems from just a single night of disrupted sleep. In fact, researchers noted that motorists who get less than 5 to 6 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period have accident risks the same as drivers with BAC levels at or above the .08 legal limit. Getting less than 4 hours of sleep in a night can mean that drivers are as likely to crash as those with double the legal limit.

With risks as substantial as these, it bears reminding that everyone should make sleep and adequate rest a priority – not only in the coming weeks as they adjust to DST, but any time they get behind the wheel. As experts state, losing a little sleep may be a part of life for many Americans, but because the risks involved are comparable to drunk driving, there needs to be greater focus on what can be done to stay safe and reduce risks. This includes:

  • Getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night
  • Making up for lost sleep (sleeping in on weekends, going to sleep earlier after losing sleep the night before, etc.)
  • Having plans for longer road trips (i.e. planned rest breaks every 100 miles, overnight breaks, switching off with well-rested drivers)
  • Choosing public transportation, carpooling, and other options when possible
  • Pulling over to rest when you feel your ability to drive safely is being affected by fatigue

These are all reasonable ways to reduce risks of preventable accidents, and they are important for all motorists, especially those who operate large vehicles, commercial trucks, and tractor-trailers. As you spring forward into a new season, remember that it is your responsibility to drive safely, and that fatigue can directly compromise this responsibility by making you more likely to not just fall asleep behind the wheel, but also run red lights, drift into other lanes, make unsafe turns or lane changes, oversee pedestrians or bicyclists, or commit other errors and moving violations that make you more likely to crash.

Because fatigue contributes to the driver errors and traffic infractions that lead to preventable traffic accidents, victims harmed in these collisions have a right to pursue personal injury cases against at-fault drivers and a financial recovery of their damages. If you or a loved one have been harmed by a tired or negligent driver in Los Angeles or anywhere in Southern California, our car accident attorneys a Biren Law Group are available to help you through the legal journey ahead.

Contact us to discuss your potential case with a member of our team. We offer FREE consultations and because we handle cases on contingency fees, you pay nothing unless and until we are successful with your case!