As we “spring forward” and adjust our clocks to Daylight Saving Time each year we put ourselves in jeopardy of getting into a car accident or being hit by a car, a University of British Columbia researcher and others say.
Sleep expert and UBC Professor Emeritus Stanley Coren says he has found a 5 to 7 percent increase in fatal car accidents as well as deaths in workplace accidents in Canada during the three days following the change to Daylight Saving Time each spring.
Coren told the CBC that ours is a “chronically sleep-deprived” society, and people lose a little more sleep as clocks are pushed forward an hour each spring.
This year, the semiannual clock adjustment was made on March 8.
Drowsy driving is a well-recognized safety hazard. Transport Canada says about 20 percent of fatal collisions involve driver fatigue. In one survey, about 60 percent of Canadian drivers admitted that they occasionally drove while fatigued and 15 percent said they had fallen asleep while driving during the prior year.
In addition to car accidents in the spring, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, say the switch back to standard time in the fall causes an increase in pedestrian accidents, the CBC says.
“People walking during rush hour in the first few weeks after the clocks fall back in the autumn were more than three times as likely to be fatally struck by cars than before the change,” especially around 6 p.m., the CBC says.
Daylight Saving Time will end on November 1 this year.
Daylight Saving Time was introduced in World War I to save resources, but the idea originated with Benjamin Franklin, Coren says on his UCB blog. Franklin suggested that if time was adjusted so that work hours were centred during daylight, people could save money on candle wax, which was expensive.
Coren supports DST because it saves energy and lives. “People die during the period directly following the spring shift, but the data on traffic accidents show that accidents occur much more often during the dark or lower illumination than during daylight hours,” he says.