Daylight saving time ends this Sunday at 2 a.m. While “falling back” gives us an extra hour of sleep and more light when we get up in the mornings — all good things — the end of daylight saving can also create driving hazards.
Longer nights induce drowsy driving
Our bodies’ internal clocks tell us to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light. But with the clocks moving back an hour, sunset also comes earlier than before. Couple that with the ever-increasing shorter days as our side of the hemisphere moves further away from the sun and we get long, dark nights ahead.
Since darkness signals a natural inclination for sleep, it stands to reason that early nightfall makes us more prone to drowsy driving — especially as we adjust to evening commutes during the first week of the time change. It’s not a coincidence that Drowsy Driving Prevention Week® occurs as daylight saving ends this year.
Darker roads mean increased chances for car accidents
According to the National Safety Council, traffic fatalities are 3 times greater at night than during the day. While drowsy driving and drunk drivers do play a role, decreased visibility is the main culprit.
Think about it: ninety percent of your reaction time depends on your ability to see what’s around you. And since your depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision decrease after sundown, your chances for a car accident tend to increase.
Driving tips for the days ahead
Fortunately, safely navigating the long nights ahead is easy. Here are a few simple tips.
- Prep your car for nighttime driving. It may be common sense, but it bears repeating. Check and clean your headlights, taillights, brake lights, and signal lights. After all, you want to see and be seen by other drivers on the road.
- Know when to use your low beams and high beams. Use your low beams when you need to see about 250 feet in front of you and high beams when your visibility range is 350 to 500 feet. And, of course, dim your high beams when following another driver or approaching an oncoming car.
- Watch out for animals on the road. Deer and other animals are most active at night, particularly from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. And since more deer-related collisions occur in November than any other month, be extra careful in the weeks following daylight saving time.
- Get rest. If you drive a lot on a regular basis, avoid the temptation to stay up extra late this Saturday night — even if you do get that bonus hour.