You’ll find plenty of proponents for ending Daylight Saving Time. Exhausted parents of young children and those who treasure their sleep regularly take to social media to declare an end to the practice. Now, you might be able to add some public safety officials to this list. A growing body of evidence suggests that time changes, like Daylight Saving Time, affect your body and mind in unexpected ways. This kind of health effect can lead to serious car accidents in the state of California if not taken care of, immediately. Learn how it can affect your behavior – especially your driving.
Little Time Change, Big Physical Effect
What many people don’t realize is that it isn’t necessary to be totally exhausted to put yourself or others at risk. Losing as little as one hour of sleep – like we do every “Spring Forward” – increases your chances of being in a car crash.
Thankfully, there are a few simple ways you can reduce your risk of crashing and protect yourself from others on the road.
Simply follow these Daylight Saving Time Driving tips:
• Avoid driving during peak crash hours, if possible. These tend to be in the early morning and late at night. Avoid driving after dark, when you not only have to contend with drowsy drivers, but also the possibility of drunk drivers on the road.
• Visit the doctor for a physical. Did you know that certain undiagnosed medical conditions, like chronic sleep apnea, can lead to serious sleep debt? Talk to your doctor if you always feel fatigued, even after a full night’s rest. Treating underlying sleep disorders can help you reduce your risk of a car crash.
• A week before Daylight Saving Time, go to bed a few minutes earlier each night. Give yourself some time to adjust to the time change before it goes into effect. By turning in earlier and earlier, you’ll be “caught up” by the time Daylight Saving Time comes, and you won’t be struggling to keep up.
• Use extra caution while driving. Since car accidents seem to increase following the spring transition, be extra aware of your surroundings during this time period. Drive defensively, keep both hands on the wheel, and avoid distractions. This better prepares you to react to a drowsy driver.
Time changes may be a harbinger of the changing seasons, but they also increase your risk of being in a car accident. Follow these simple tips to reduce your risk of crashing and keep safe on area roads.
Disruption in Your Sleep Cycle
Our bodies work on an internal clock called circadian rhythm. This biological clock tells us when we should be awake, when we should be tired, and when to sleep. Generally, our brains tell our bodies it’s time to sleep when it becomes dark and to wake when the sun rises.
Daylight Saving Time effectively disrupts your natural body clock. While an hour in either direction might not seem like a big deal, it does have an effect on your wakefulness for a few days. Consider, for example, that a recent study found in the days following the “spring forward” transition, heart attacks, work injuries, and car accidents all increase.
Drowsy drivers account for only 1% of all car crashes each year, but the National Sleep Foundation notes that this is still around 1.9 million motorists. Sleepiness, like alcohol, impairs your judgment, slows your reaction time, and makes it more difficult to stay on the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving played a role in 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. However, they also note that it’s difficult to track drowsy driving and it may be responsible for up to 6,000 fatal crashes in a given year.