Could more traffic collisions result from “springing ahead” or “falling back” on our time? For years, there have been questions and concerns about the advantages and disadvantages of daylight saving time. Government leaders and regular people have long wondered whether it really works and if there are any measurable benefits. One study conducted by the University of British Columbia argues that it’s not as beneficial as proponents may think. The study, which is entitled “Sleep Deficit, Fatal Accidents and the Spring Shift to Daylight Saving Time,” found that 17 percent more car accidents occur in the week after the time change. Furthermore, fatal traffic collisions increase by 6 percent.
Explanations for Increased Traffic Accidents
Changing the time is a simple task, but it might not be so easy for Americans to adjust their internal clocks. It’s especially difficult for insomniacs and adults who struggle to get the recommended eight hours of quality sleep. The study’s lead researcher, sleep expert and professor emeritus Stanley Coren, found that any small advantages associated with daylight saving time are dramatically offset by the high cost of increased traffic accidents.
Low available light isn’t the only cause of accidents. Experts say that altered sleep patterns have a considerable effect. Multiple studies have shown that people have difficulty getting restful sleep for several days after the time change. Altered sleep patterns and sleep deprivation could be responsible for inattentive driving, poor decision-making and slow reaction times. Every year, sleepy drivers cause $48 billion in damages. According to official estimates, drowsiness plays a role in nearly one-fifth of all car accidents. Drowsy drivers are especially active on the days following the time change.
The Story behind Daylight Saving Time
The concept for daylight saving time isn’t new. It was first advocated by Ben Franklin, who said that it would reduce demand for expensive wax candles. By World War II, the conservation measure caught on in America and Europe. Then, it was revived during the energy crisis of the 1970s, and it’s been in place ever since.
In the early 1980s, daylight saving time began at the end of April and ended in late October. Under the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1986, it was extended to begin in early April. Nearly two decades later, lawmakers passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Under this law, daylight saving time begins in early March and ends in the beginning of November. At first, senators wanted daylight saving time to end in late November, but farmers and airline lobbyists successfully argued against it.
The Cost of Springing Ahead
Originally, proponents believed that taking advantage of available daylight would save energy. Now that efficiency has improved, opponents argue that the savings are very small and that there might not be any benefits. Economists estimate that the time change costs Americans $434 million annually. This includes health care costs, lost earnings and property damage related to traffic collisions, particularly in the early morning.
According to the Insurance Research Council, a single car accident costs $23,400 on average. This includes $15,000 for bodily injuries and about $7,000 in property damage and auto repairs. The cost of a pedestrian accident is much higher. The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine says that accident victims incur $132,000 in medical expenses. Injuries typically involve the head, neck and lower extremities.
The safety of schoolchildren is another hot issue in discussions about daylight saving time. Safety advocates have criticized the timing because children are forced to travel to school and wait for buses before sunrise. Late sunrises are a problem whenever daylight saving time is observed ahead of the vernal equinox. Dark mornings are dangerous for the young and old. Pedestrians, drivers and passengers are all at risk whenever motorists are drowsy or conditions limit visibility. Both of these situations occur immediately after the time change.
Even a minor accident can leave you with unpaid medical bills, property damage and other losses. An accident attorney can help you recover compensation and make you whole again. Insurance companies are eager to settle for much less than you are owed. Victims of a pedestrian accident, truck accident or car collision deserve compensation for medical care, rehabilitation, lost income and diminished earning capacity. Injured individuals are also entitled to punitive damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress and non-monetary losses. If you have been injured in a traffic collision, contact an accident attorney to discuss your case.