The amount of daylight in a single day reaches its peak on the summer solstice in late June (usually the 20th, 21st, or 22nd), and from that day until the winter solstice in late December (usually the 20th, 21st, or 22nd), every day gets shorter with the sun setting earlier and earlier. And when daylight savings time (DST) ends and clocks move back one hour, it can be jarring to suddenly be awakened by bright sunlight and to see pitch darkness before dinnertime.
This sudden change in the hour of sunrise and sunset can have a major effect on people’s mood, energy levels, ability to wake up and go to sleep, and even their performance at work. It’s common for people to get less sleep when the clocks change, whether it’s moving forward in the spring or backward in the fall.
Can the behavioral, emotional, and physical changes caused by the beginning and end of DST result in more accidents while driving and at work? Here’s what the studies say.
DST’s Ending is Less Dangerous than Its Start—But Crashes and Accidents Still Increase
When DST begins in late winter/early spring, everyone “loses” one hour. Because the change happens during the middle of the night when most people are sleeping, their alarms will go off one hour earlier than they would have before DST started.
That means that if people go to bed and wake up at the same time as usual, they get one less hour of sleep. Any amount of lost sleep can impair cognition, motor skills, and judgment, which can lead to a greater risk of accidents.
The opposite happens when DST ends, as the clocks move back one hour, which can result in people getting MORE sleep. Despite people being theoretically able to get more sleep when DST ends, they may get poorer quality sleep, and they make up groggier due to changes in their circadian rhythms.
In addition, the end of DST can inspire people to stay out later or drive at night when they’re less prepared to do so. They may also be more likely to consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel in anticipation of having an extra hour of sleep.
Earlier Sunsets Mean More Driving in the Dark
When DST ends, people spend much more time driving at dusk and at night. For example, their drives home may be in the dark, and any after-work errands like grocery shopping, taking kids to practice, and going to appointments may also require driving in low light conditions.
Driving at night is simply more dangerous than driving during the day. Even with headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and even street lights, visibility is reduced, and it’s more difficult to see vehicles and anticipate their movements. All of this can add up to an increased risk of crashes.
Tips for Reducing Your Car Accident Risks When DST Ends
It’s important to maintain “business as usual” in your schedule when DST ends. Many people look forward to the extra hour of sleep, even if they dread months of leaving work at dusk or well after the sun has already set. But during the first couple of days after DST ends, you should stick to your normal routine and bedtime as much as possible to avoid any disruption to your circadian rhythm.
If you’re worried about being woken up too early by the sun, putting up heavy, dark curtains over your windows can help you stay asleep longer and maintain your normal sleep schedule. You should also avoid staying up late in anticipation of getting an extra hour of sleep.
When it comes to driving in the dark, check your vehicle’s lights and replace any burned out or dim bulbs. Test your headlights, high beams, flashers, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals. You should also stick to well-lit streets, highways, and interstates on your evening commute, as unlit rural roads can be more dangerous after dark.
What About Work Injuries?
If you work a job that involves working outdoors, being on construction sites, operating heavy machinery, or driving, it’s important to be aware of how the end of DST can affect you. As with your daily commute, the biggest risks you face on the job are sleep deprivation and increased risks of working in the dark.
Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night when the clocks move backward, and be prepared for the possibility of working in the dark, especially if you work outdoors. Equipping your hard hat with a headlamp can keep you safer on a construction site, and if you’re a delivery driver, being extra cautious while making deliveries at the end of your shift can keep you and other motorists safer on the road.
We Help Car Accident and Work Injury Victims All Year Long
Whether you’re injured in a crash on the Monday after DST begins, ends, or any other time of year, it’s important to get experienced legal representation on your side. At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we know that negligence-related crashes can happen anytime, anywhere, and our Oklahoma auto accident lawyers are always available to help injured victims in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.
Contact us 24/7 to get a free evaluation of your case, and don’t worry about ever getting an invoice or legal fee from us. We only get paid if we get YOU paid. That’s our No Fee Guarantee.