Daylight saving time (DST) ends on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, which means that the clocks “fall back” an hour earlier. The time change means that, overnight, the mornings are brighter and the afternoons are dark by 5:00 p.m. While many people look forward to that extra hour of sleep, even a slight disruption in your circadian rhythm can have a negative impact on the body.
A change in your circadian rhythm can affect your mood, cognitive performance, and your ability to stay awake and alert, particularly when driving at night. When your sleep cycle is disrupted, you are also at a greater risk of being involved in a car accident.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the day after the DST change is one of the most dangerous days to drive, as there is a documented increase in car accidents. In addition to the disruption of the sleep cycle, researchers suggest that people may adjust their behavior in anticipation of getting an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning. For example, individuals may stay out later on Saturday night or have a drink, thinking that they can make up for it with the extra hour of sleep. Unfortunately, that means that there are more motorists driving late at night.
It is more likely that there are motorists on the road who are drowsy or under the influence of alcohol after the end of DST. Drowsy driving and drunk driving are among the top causes of serious accidents in the United States.
You may think that gaining an hour of sleep is far less dangerous than losing an hour during the “spring ahead” time change. However, there are a number of reasons why the “fall back” time change can be dangerous when it comes to getting behind the wheel of a car.
The disruption on the sleep cycle can affect your cognitive performance and cause you to feel distracted and less focused. This can increase the risk of distracted driving accidents.
Sleep disruptions can also cause you to become irritable and stressed. As a result, you may engage in unsafe or aggressive driving behavior, like tailgating, swerving in and out of your lane, cutting off other drivers, or running through a red light, all of which can result in a serious accident.
The time change causes it to become darker earlier. Considering the fact that many car accidents occur at night, the time change may increase the risk of car accidents due to the number of motorists who are driving when it is dark.
Studies show that people are generally more active and do more driving during the evening hours. Visibility is reduced when it is dark outside, which can increase the risk of a car accident.
While the days have started to gradually get shorter, the time change means that, suddenly, the sun is out at 7:00 a.m., and it is completely dark outside at 5:00 p.m. It takes time for the mind and the body to acclimate to this sudden change. For commuters who are driving home from work at 5:00 p.m., it can feel like it is much later, particularly during the few days immediately following the time change.
The time change combined with shorter days can leave you feeling drowsy. This means that there may be more drowsy drivers on the roads. According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy driving is responsible for over 6,400 fatalities each year in the United States. Studies have shown that extreme drowsiness can have the same effect on the body as consuming too much alcohol.
For many years, there have been discussions about whether DST should be a thing of the past. However, until that happens, there are proactive steps that you can take to stay safe behind the wheel and avoid getting into a serious car accident, particularly when driving at night.
One of the simplest and most effective things you can do is to consistently get enough sleep. The average adult needs approximately eight hours of sleep each night. If you start to feel drowsy while you are driving, pull over to a safe, well-lit area, and get some fresh air, or take a short nap. Caffeinated drinks like coffee or soda can help, but you should not rely on them on a regular basis.
Follow the speed limit and slow down during inclement weather conditions. Speeding is among the most common causes of car accidents and can increase the severity of injuries due to the extreme force of impact. Speeding on slippery roads is particularly dangerous.
Always maintain a safe following distance when driving at night. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a three-second following distance from the vehicle you are following.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, whether you are driving home from work or to a friend’s house. The weather can be unpredictable.
Drive defensively. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorists are more likely to drive drunk at night. In fact, the rate of fatal drunk driving accidents is almost four times higher at night compared to during the day. Pay attention to other motorists on the road and avoid cars that are weaving in and out of lanes, tailgating, or showing other signs of drunk driving or unsafe driving behavior.
Make sure that your windshield is clean and free of any leaves, dirt, or other debris that can affect visibility. You should also make sure that your headlights are clean and working properly.
Avoid two-lane highways if at all possible. They are more likely to be poorly lit and have sharp curves. Oncoming motorists may forget that they have their high-beams turned on, which can temporarily blind you and other motorists that are driving in the same direction. If you are using your high-beams, always turn them off when you are within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle.
Avoid talking, texting on your phone or engaging in any other distracted behavior while driving, including eating, putting on makeup, programming the navigation system, or reaching for something in the back seat. One moment of distraction can have devastating consequences if you hit another vehicle, motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian.
Use extra caution when approaching an intersection or a crosswalk. Pedestrians and cyclists may cross the street, not realizing that a vehicle is making a turn or trying to beat a red light. Always keep in mind that pedestrians have the right-of-way if there is a crosswalk, and check for pedestrians or cyclists before making a turn at an intersection.
As the seasons change, it is a good idea to have your vehicle serviced to ensure that the vehicle is in good working order. A skilled mechanic should check the vehicle’s tires, brakes, engine, transmission, and headlights and taillights. In addition, they should check all fluid levels and refill those that appear to be low.
When the clocks “fall back” an hour, you might notice more drowsy and reckless drivers on the road. If you have been seriously injured in a car accident after the end of DST, you are urged to contact our Los Angeles car accident lawyers at ACTS LAW to discuss your legal options. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-228-7529 or contact us online. With offices located in Los Angeles and San Diego, we serve clients throughout Southern California.
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