Study Reveals That Car Crashes Increase With Daylight Savings Time

January 8, 2015

An economist has issued a warning for the more than 1.5 billion people living in countries that observe daylight saving time: Springing forward could actually be bad for your health.

The issue of moving clocks an hour forward during summer months has been the subject of many debates in previous years. Proponents argue that extending daylight into the evening saves electricity, encourages people to exercise after work and reduces crime and traffic fatalities. Opponents feel that the costs of disrupting people’s schedules and sleep outweigh any of the benefits.

Study Reveals that Car Crashes Increase with Daylight Savings TimeThe research available supports the arguments on crime, exercise and fatalities, but cast doubt on the energy savings and suggest that the disruptions might increase the risk of heart attacks.

Most recently, a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado-Boulder presented a paper Monday at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, where he looks at national data on all fatal car crashes from 2002 to 2011 to see what happens immediately after people reset their clocks in the spring and fall. The study was done by comparing the number of crashes that occur just before and after the time changes in each year, and also by comparing crashes on dates that fell within daylight saving time in some years and not in others.

His findings? Fatal crashes increased by about 6 percent over the 6 days immediately following the spring transition, but did not change after the fall transition. The reasoning behind this is that because people “lose” an hour only in spring, and because the accidents were not concentrated at times when changes in daylight might have been a factor, the research scientist attributes the spike in crashes to inadequate sleep. In fact, he estimates that the 6 percent increase amounted to more than 300 added deaths over the 10-year period he studied.

The researcher said that results “should be viewed as one piece of the puzzle, to be examined in conjunction with research on other impacts.”

This new research indicated that it might be a good idea to take extra care on the road when the time comes to move clocks forward. The subtle changes in sleep patterns as well as circadian rhythms can alter human alertness, which may increase the risk of potentially fatal car accidents. So when the time comes to change the clocks and you are feeling more sleepy than usual, make sure you take all the time you need to adjust yourself to the change and stay alert on the roads. If you or someone you love has been injured in a motor vehicle crash and you would like to speak with a Hernando County Auto Accident Lawyer at Whittel & Melton about your case, please call us locally at 352-666-2121 or contact us online to request a free consultation.

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