The Risk Of Daylight Savings Time

Every year, most Americans are reminded to "spring forward" and move their clocks one hour ahead to enter Daylight Saving Time (DST). Before the advent of smartphones and smart clocks, people needed to remember to change their main timekeeping devices and alarms before they went to bed the night before. Nowadays it's mainly grumbling about the loss of sleep and a darker morning for a few weeks.  However, studies have been performed to dig into the actual effects of that adjustment period and what it means to a person's body. What they have shown is that there are true ill-effects of that one hour change, especially in the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Early Morning Commute

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Reasons Behind Daylight Saving Time

 Daylight Savings and driving

There are various accounts regarding the origin of daylight savings, but the fact is that the United States was not the first to enact the practice. It had roots in various countries around the turn of the twentieth century but did not become more widespread until Germany adopted it in 1916. By the time a few more years had passed, several other nations were utilizing time adjustments, and the U.S. enacted it in 1918.

The original premise behind the idea was to conserve energy. As time went on and sources of energy changed and became more efficient, that rationale has come under debate. The biggest proponents in modern times cite the added daylight available in the evenings to enjoy activities after work and school. Regardless of the reasons for being pro-DST or anti-DST, there are temporary alterations that everyone's body goes through while the transition is still in place.

Analyzing Traffic Data

In one 2001 study, data from 21 years of fatal automobile accidents was gathered. The number of crashes that occurred on the days after a time shift were compared to the average on other days of the year. What it found was that there was a statistically significant increase in accidents directly after the DST transition. A more recent study attributed a 6.3 percent increase in vehicle-related fatalities to the six days immediately following the time change forward. Surprisingly, even with most people having a full Sunday to adjust to a new sleep pattern, those repercussions are still being felt on Monday morning and beyond.

 Sleeping behind the wheel

While data shows there is a difference in accidents due to DST, pinpointing an exact cause is more difficult. One of the causes for the uptick in crashes may be as simple as black and white - or light and dark. Many commuters drive to work one day in sunlight or at least with added visibility, and then the next day they make the same trip in total darkness. The lack of ambient light may contribute to the statistics. The lack of clear sight combined with additional sleep loss may even be heightened depending on where a person lives. If someone is located on the far western edge of a time zone, their sunrise and sunset times already differ from those in the east, and daylight savings worsens the effects.

 Risk of Daylight Savings Time

Despite the increased risk on the road that occurs each year, there are always preventive measures that can mitigate potential issues. Below are some quick safety tips that become even more relevant around daylight saving time:


  • • Go to bed a bit earlier on the nights after the change
  • • Start your commute slightly earlier and avoid rushing
  • • Don't drive distracted

Anatomy of Changing Time

Another possible reason for the increase in driving deaths is what happens within a person's body itself. What causes an inability to function the same as one did just the day before? The body is more sensitive to being deprived of an hour of sleep for one night than it may initially appear. Neurological and cardiovascular systems are immediately affected as they adjust to the change.

Other Effects of DST

Of course, a change in the number of traffic accidents is not the only consequence of an acute change in sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. Research has been performed in several other areas to try and link daylight savings to negative effects relating to appetite, heart attacks, and overall health and mood. Combined with the ongoing disputes over the true benefit of energy conservation, the discussion involving the practice of daylight saving time is not likely to end anytime soon.

Other effects of daylight savings time