By: Allan M. Siegel
Daylight Saving Time (DST) is nearly here, which means that come 2:00 am
on Sunday, March 11, Americans in the District of Columbia and all but
two U.S. states (Hawaii and Arizona), will spring forward by turning their
clocks one hour ahead. Although the time change has become an ingrained
part of our lives, and a welcomed way to bring in the spring and summer
months and longer days, studies have shown that the practice of adjusting
our clocks may actually cause more harm than good – especially when
it comes to safety on our roadways.
An idea once proposed by Benjamin Franklin to help conserve energy, Daylight
Saving Time became federal law in 1966. Since then, Americans have made
the bi-annual time change on the second Sunday of March, and the first
Sunday in November. While more hours of daylight in the spring and summer
is seen as one major benefit, there has been debate over DST and whether
it should still be observed today. Many critics cite its minimal impact
on conserving energy, especially with the improved efficiency of electric
lighting, negative health effects associated with less early-morning sun,
and an increase in
car accidents noted in numerous studies.
As some of these studies show, Daylight Saving Time can have a significant
impact on our roads:
- A 1999 study conducted by researchers at Stanford and Johns Hopkins Universities,
which reviewed 21 years of car accident data from the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found a significant increase in
fatal wrecks, particularly on the Monday which follows the Sunday time
change. The study noted that while typical Mondays saw an average of 78
deadly wrecks, that average rose to over 83 on the “spring forward” Monday.
A study published in the
New England Journal of Medicine found an approximate 8% increase in non-fatal traffic accidents in the
week following spring DST.
Data Highlights Dangers of Drowsy Driving
While studies show a small but significant increase in fatal and non-fatal
accidents following Daylight Saving Time, those increased risks are highest
on the first Monday after clocks are advanced forward, and slowly decrease
over the following weeks. The greatest take-away from this data isn’t
just that driving after DST is dangerous, but that even minor disruptions
in our sleeping patterns can have an impact on our bodies and ability
to drive safely.
As we have noted in many of our blogs, drowsy driving is a significant
danger, and it plays a role in causing or contributing to thousands of
accidents, injuries, and deaths on American roads each year. That’s
because getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep in a night
can compromise our ability to focus, situational awareness, reaction time,
decision making, and other critical cognitive functions that help us drive
safely. In fact, a
report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals just how dangerous
drowsy driving is:
Driving tired can be just as dangerous as driving drunk; motorists who get less than 5 hours of sleep in a single night are just
as likely to crash as drivers with blood alcohol levels at or above the
legal limit (.08).
- Less than 4 hours of sleep in a night has crash risks comparable to driving
with a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal lime (.12 – .15).
- Missing 1 to 2 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period can nearly double a driver’s
The most significant problem with drowsy driving is that it is an accepted
part of our lives. Although we regulate alcohol consumption and driving
due to the risks it poses, we do not do the same for drowsy driving –
in part because it’s so common. Over 35% of Americans today, especially
working adults and teens, get less than the minimum 7 hours of sleep,
the CDC reports. This means that many drivers on the road at any given
time are chronically fatigued and at risk of drowsy driving.
Quality sleep is a critical component of our health, and it is important
to understand that
missing even a few hours of sleep in a given night can have big risks when
you’re behind the wheel. As such, our team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. wants
to remind everyone about the importance of making sleep a priority, especially
if you commute early in the morning or have longer drives or road trips
planned this spring and summer. If you feel tire behind the wheel, or
find yourself dozing off, pull off the road to get some rest. You can
also make plans to carpool, switch off driving duties on longer trips,
drink a caffeinated beverage, and avoid medications that can cause drowsiness.
Public transportation is also an option when you feel your driving abilities
are hindered by a lack of sleep.
Drowsy driving may not be treated the same way as drunk driving when it
comes to criminal law, but it is a significant factor behind driver error
and negligence, and it can have equivalent risks. Whether it leads to
falling asleep at the wheel, running a stop sign or red light, or committing
some other error or traffic infraction, drowsy driving is dangerous, and
victims harmed in crashes caused by fatigued motorists who fail to safely
operate their vehicles have the right to pursue
personal injury cases against the at-fault driver, as well as a financial recovery of
We hope everyone enjoys the coming spring and summer months, and that you
remember the importance of getting adequate sleep beyond the Monday following
Daylight Saving Time. If you or someone you love has been injured in a
wreck caused by a fatigued driver, or any negligent motorist, our award-winning
personal injury lawyers can review your case anywhere throughout DC, Maryland,
and Northern Virginia.
Contact us for a FREE consultation.