Most of the country has followed the “spring forward, fall back” practice of daylight saving time for years, but now studies find that the time change can cause serious health problems that can contribute to more accidents.
Daylight saving time was created in Germany to make use of daylight better and save energy costs during WWI, but a 1784 essay by Benjamin Franklin outlined the idea, making it a centuries-old concept. However, studies have shown that the impact of the practice is actually negative, causing health issues that make some question whether we should continue DST.
According to multiple studies and research, the most dangerous time is the spring when we “spring forward,” making all of us lose an hour of sleep. The consequences of missing even one hour of sleep can have ill-effects: researchers have found an increase of heart attacks and car accidents and following spring DST. With that logic, we’d expect to do better in the fall when we gain an hour of sleep, and although there is one study that suggests positive effects, another study from Epidemiology this year shoes that DST in autumn increases depression and criminal activity.
The car accident and DST connection has been studied many times, one of which is the 2014 study by University of Colorado-Boulder PhD candidate Austin Smith who analyzed data across the country from 2002 to 2011 focusing on the time after DST in both spring and fall. Smith compared data from before the time change to after, and found that fatal crashes increased about 6 percent for 6 days following the time changes in spring, but not after fall DST.
Do you need to be extra careful while driving the week after DST? Certainly after spring you may want to be doubly cautious, but fall seems to be less dangerous. However, the shortening of daylight on your commute home from work can cause a multitude of problems, too. Dusk is the time to watch out for wildlife wandering across the road in rural areas, and other obstacles that may be hard to miss if you’re speeding when it’s dark out.
Slow down, get enough sleep (when you can) and keep your eyes open for animals’ retinas, which glow in the dark. If you do end up in an accident that wasn’t your fault due to another person, contact an experienced lawyer right away. You could be entitled to compensation for your injuries.