Each year, Daylights Savings Time (DST) starts for most Americans at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and ends at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November. In March, clocks "spring forward" forward by an hour. Then, in November, they "fall back" that hour. But how do these time changes impact us? Unfortunately, it turns out they make driving more dangerous. Here's what you should know.
Tip: In 2021, DST started on March 14 and ends on November 7th. However, not all states observe DST — Hawaii and Arizona do not.
How Can Daylight Savings Impact Your Driving?
When Daylight Savings Time starts in the spring, all of us that don't live in Hawaii or Arizona lose an hour. That means if your alarm goes off at 6 a.m. that morning, despite what your clock says, it will feel like 5 a.m. to your body. When you're used to a normal sleep schedule, this change can throw off your natural circadian rhythm for a little while resulting in sleep deprivation.
But what are the consequences of that? As it turns out, studies have shown that losing an hour can impact your driving. A study found that there's a 6% increase in fatal accidents the week after DST starts, and 28 data fatal accidents could be avoided by abolishing DST.
On the other hand, when Daylight Savings Time ends, we gain an hour of sleep in the morning, which can feel like quite the luxury. If your alarm goes off at 6 a.m., your body will feel like it's 7 a.m. Plus, that means that it will be lighter earlier which can improve a driver's visibility and alertness.
However, on the downside, it will get dark earlier in the evening. With more drivers typically being active in the evening than in the early morning, the increased darkness can make it more dangerous. Plus, with many used to driving at that time in the light, the abrupt change leaves little time to adapt.
How to Stay Safe When Driving in the Dark
While DST can throw us off for a bit, there are ways to prevent your likelihood of getting into an accident:
Adjust your sleep schedule: In the days leading up to the time change in the spring, it can help to begin adjusting your morning alarm in the direction that the time will change. For example, if you normally wake up at 6 a.m., you may want to begin waking up at 5:45, 5:30, and then 5:15. This way, by the time the clock changes, it won't be as big of a shock.
Give yourself extra time: Plan ahead so that you have a bit of extra time. When you are running late or close to late, you're more likely to drive fast and make poorer driving decisions. If you're a coffee drinker, ensure you have time for it before you go.
Slow down: Another way to prevent accidents is to slow down by about 5 mph. Give yourself a bit more space and time to react.
These can all help, but one of the most important steps is just being aware of time change's effect on people's driving. By understanding that more accidents do happen around the time changes, you can be more aware and careful on the road in the days following a change.
Sharpen Your Defensive Driving Skills with Aceable
Defensive driving is always important, but especially in times of higher risk like after DST. If you want to sharpen up your skills behind the wheel, check out Aceable's 100% online defensive driving courses. Not only can it help you and your family members become better drivers, but it may also qualify you for an insurance discount or a ticket dismissal!