How Does Daylight Savings Increase the Risk of Car Accidents?
You may not think that when daylight savings happens your risk of a car accident increases but it does. Find out why and what you can do about it.
Seven states have passed bills to eliminate the time change daylight savings brings. Arizona and Hawaii don’t actually observe daylight savings at all.
Legislators believe there are enormous health and economic benefits to doing so. But, enacting these changes requires congressional approval, so they haven’t happened yet.
Strangely, daylight savings brings the unanticipated problem of more time spent driving in the dark. Darkness decreases visibility, which increases auto collisions.
On weekends, for example, 72% of pedestrian fatalities caused by car accidents happen between 6 PM and 3 AM. And 57.3% of all pedestrian fatalities happen between 3 PM and 12 AM.
Why Does Driving in the Dark Lead to More Accidents?
Your eyes do adjust to lower light levels. However, you still see less than you do when the sun’s out.
At night, you can see about 500 feet with your high beams on and about 250 feet when your low beams are on. This gives you less time to react to road hazards or mistakes other drivers make.
Your eyes also can’t quickly adjust to the dark after exposure to the headlights of oncoming vehicles. Those few seconds while your eyes adjust, even though a short time, can be just enough of a window for you to miss something on the road and cause an accident.
Your ability to see while driving at night also decreases as you age. At 50, you may need twice the light you needed to have the same level of visibility as you did when 30.
Many Drivers are Tired
Around 100,000 crashes happen each year as a result of drowsy driving. However, it’s difficult to determine whether a driver was drowsy at the time of an auto accident, so that number may be low.
A lack of sleep also affects your body similarly to drinking alcohol.
Going 17 hours without sleep is like a .05% BAC. Now, that’s still within the legal limit of .08%. But according to US law, this still makes you an “impaired” driver. Going 24 hours without sleep puts you in exactly the same state as having a BAC of .10%.
In America, where you have to go-go-go, it’s easy to wear yourself out faster than you realize.
What Can You Do About All This?
The number one problem with any new data or potential change to your life is resistance and rationalization.
“This is ridiculous! I know how to drive at night. I’ve done it for decades,” your mind might say.
The human mind can come up with all kinds of creative defenses against change. The most important thing you can do is to identify those, and then come back to reality.
Driving at night is more dangerous. And it gets more dangerous as you age. So, reduce your speed and avoid driving distracted.
Driving while drowsy increases your risk of an accident too. So, get at least 7 hours of sleep at night and never drive if you’ve gone more than 16 hours without sleep.
There are dozens more ways you can justify driving at night or while drowsy. So, it’s important to identify your own defenses, understand the reality behind them, and do what you can so you keep yourself, and other drivers, safe!
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Shane V. Mullen is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas for the general practice of law, and the Managing Partner at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX. His firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law and has been in business for 40 years. Before becoming a lawyer, Shane worked for his father as an accident injury claims investigator.