Daylight saving time ended on Sunday and while “falling back” gives us an extra hour to catch up sleep and more light when we wake up in the morning, it also creates hazards on the road. There are physiological reasons for these dangers. Our bodies’ internal clocks essentially tell us to sleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s bright. However, with the clocks moving back an hour, sunset also comes earlier. When you couple that with shorter days, we get long, dark nights.
Since darkness signals a natural inclination for sleep, it stands to reason that early nightfall makes us more prone to drowsy driving. This is especially true as we adjust to evening commutes during the first week of the time change. It is not a coincidence that Drowsy Driving Prevention Week occurs as daylight savings ends this year. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that traffic fatalities are three times greater at night than during the day. While drowsy driving and drunk drivers do play a role, decreased visibility is the main culprit.
Tips for Safe Driving
Here are a few tips for driving during the week following the end of daylight saving time and as days get shorter:
- Prepare your car for nighttime driving. Check and clean your headlights, taillights, brake lights and signal lights. This will help you see and be seen on the road.
- Know when to use low beams and high beams. Use your low beam when you need to see about 250 feet in front of you and high beams when your visibility range is 350 to 500 feet. And, of course, dim your high beams when following another driver or approaching an oncoming car.
- Look out for animals on the road. Deer and other animals are most active after dark. Statistics show that more deer-related collisions occur in November than any other month.
- Get some rest. If you drive a lot on a regular basis, avoid the temptation to stay up late at night.
Safety Tips for Pedestrians
Pedestrian crashes also increase significantly the first week after the end of daylight saving time. If you are walking be sure to see and be seen. Drivers need to see you to avoid hitting you. Wear bright colors or reflective clothing and/or accessories at night. Make eye contact with drivers when crossing the street. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark. Cross only at crosswalks or intersections. Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. Do not let umbrellas or jacket hoods block your view of approaching traffic. Put your cell phone away so you can focus on your surroundings.