As you turn your clocks ahead an hour this Sunday, don’t forget to take extra precaution when driving. A statement released by the University of British Columbia in March 2014 reported that the few days following the time change are linked to higher traffic fatality rates.
“We looked at different types of accidents, including traffic accidents and workplace accidents in Canada and found that there was a five to seven per cent increase in accident fatalities during the three days following spring Daylight Savings Time,” said sleep expert Stanley Coren.
The increased danger is a result of the extra sleep loss that occurs in the few days following turning out clocks back, which can mean lower alertness, concentration, and reaction time as drivers’ internal clocks adjust. An hour may not seem like much, but for the already sleep-deprived among us, it can make a bad situation even worse.
According to Coren, “if you have chronic sleep debt, and you are driving your car at 50 kilometres per hour and have a ten second micro-sleep, your car will travel more than the length of a football field while you are asleep.” That could potentially result in some serious damage.
Nodding off at the wheel is one of the leading causes of road fatalities nationwide, accounting for one in five fatal road accidents, according to CAA Magazine. Just after spring daylight savings time, decreased visibility during darker early morning commutes combined with added fatigue adds a greater risk. Extra precaution is necessary not just for drivers, but pedestrians as well.
Since most of us don’t immediately adjust our behaviour to account for less light, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be more alert on the road at this time. Here are some tips for avoiding traffic-related accidents while you’re getting used to the time change:
Put your health first
Being alert in all your day-to-day activities when sleep is compromised requires a little extra diligence. Coren recommends going to bed earlier on the day of the time change to minimize sleep debt – most of us tend to awaken automatically with a bright morning. Limit your exposure to light after bedtime and maximize exposure during the day to ensure a swift change of your internal clock.
Prepare your vehicle for darker driving conditions
Ensure your headlights, tail lights, brake lights, signal lights, and windshield wipers are in working condition so you can see and be seen on the road. Extra ways to keep your line of vision in the clear include brushing away all the snow from your car before driving and becoming familiar with the temperature and defrost settings.
Be aware of other drivers
Just because you’re alert doesn’t mean others are. Be aware of vehicles around you swaying from lane to lane and stopping abruptly, and leave more following room between you and the car in front of you for more reaction time.
Be a conscious pedestrian
Only cross the street at cross walks, and avoid texting, listening to your iPod, or talking on the phone while crossing. If walking at night or before sunrise, make sure you can be easily seen with brightly coloured clothing.
The time change isn’t the only potential driving hazard to be mindful of at this time of year. Darker mornings, black ice, and wild animals give drivers a lot to think about. Start spring right, with safe driving practices suited to the season.
What measures do you take to drive safe in springtime?