As the days grow longer and the warmth of spring beckons, Albertans once again find themselves at the crossroads of time manipulation: daylight saving time. However, there is more to consider than just losing an hour of sleep or gaining additional sunlight. While daylight saving time originates in energy conservation and maximizing productivity, its effects extend beyond adjusting your clock.

This blog will shed light on the connections between daylight saving time and increased accidents to help keep individuals safe during seasonal time change transitions. Beyond the debates over its necessity or effectiveness, a compelling body of research indicates that this biannual time shift may significantly affect our safety. With road safety being a shared responsibility of all road users, it is important to take proactive steps to help reduce the risk of catastrophic accidents and injuries

Understanding Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time (also known as “DST”) occurs twice a year as a seasonal time change measure where clocks are set ahead by one hour during the spring and summer months to extend daylight longer into the evening. Many people use this extra hour to enjoy various outdoor activities without requiring artificial lighting.

Although the practice provides the benefit of additional evening sunlight, the impacts of Daylight Saving Time on our collective safety, health and economic activities remain in question. For many, these time adjustments can disrupt daily routines and sleep patterns, posing various challenges and concerns, particularly regarding alertness and safety. 

Daylight Saving Time and Road Safety

Research from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety shows that during time change adjustments, there is a notable increase in car and pedestrian accidents, particularly the Monday after time springs ahead. Although Daylight Saving Time is a relatively subtle shift, it can significantly impact road safety, impacting drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and any other road users. Some of the commonly disrupted driving behaviours are explained in further detail below. 

Increased Social Activity and Road Use

With extended daylight hours in the evenings, many individuals participate in more social activities compared to the colder months, some of which may involve increased alcohol or substance use. As such, this can unfortunately result in more drivers being on the road while under the influence, especially in the evening and early morning hours. 

Light and Visibility Conditions

Daylight Saving Time substantially affects the natural light, requiring drivers to adjust their driving habits in accordance with visibility and other weather conditions. Morning commutes may be done in darker conditions than some drivers are used to, thereby causing disorientation and reducing a driver’s visibility and awareness of their surroundings.

Disrupted Sleep

One of the largest effects of Daylight Saving Time for many individuals is sleep deprivation or disrupted sleep patterns due to the disruption of their circadian rhythm. As a result, drivers may experience slower reaction times, drowsiness, and decreased alertness, which can increase the risk of accidents. 

Changes to Commutes

It can take drivers several days or weeks to adjust to a new sleep pattern and daily schedule. Therefore, drivers should take additional care and ensure they allow extra time during their commute to account for unusual traffic patterns.

Pedestrians and Cyclists

Non-motorist road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, can also be affected by Daylight Saving Time as the lighting conditions, in conjunction with the impact of time change on individual’s behaviours and routines, can make them more vulnerable to accidents, particularly during the morning and evening transition periods. 

Safety Considerations After Daylight Saving Time

Any road user needs to take extra care and consideration following Daylight Saving Time to ensure both their own safety and the safety of others. Some of the ways that you can proactively protect yourself on the road include:

  • Planning ahead to gradually adjust your sleep schedule and other routines in the days leading up to the time change;
  • Adjusting your driving habits for the light conditions by being extra vigilant during darker mornings and increasing your following distance when behind other vehicles;
  • Staying sober and avoid distractions behind the wheel;
  • Prioritizing rest, hydration and nourishment; 
  • Taking extra care to watch for other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists;
  • Paying attention to weather conditions and adjust your driving accordingly; 
  • Driving slowly through school zones, residential areas, parks, playgrounds and other high-traffic recreational areas;
  • Wearing bright colours or reflective wear if you are a pedestrian or cyclist and cross at marked crosswalks;
  • Conducting a vehicle check to ensure all lights, tires, and brakes are in good working order.

Additional Risks and Impacts of Daylight Saving Time

Beyond the increase in road accidents, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety notes that Daylight Saving Time is responsible for increased workplace accidents, particularly on the first Monday following the adjustment. 

In addition to a reduced sleep schedule, research has also suggested that Daylight Saving Time can increase the prevalence of heart attacks as well as other adverse health conditions, including impacts on mental health. Sleep deprivation can result in increased distress and irritability. 

Contact the Calgary Injury Lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie if You Have Been Injured in an Accident

Albertan road users must be extra diligent following daylight saving time to protect themselves and the safety of those around them during their commute. Given the increase in car accidents after the biannual time change, it is important to take additional care while walking, cycling or operating a motor vehicle to reduce your risk of being involved in an accident. However, if you are injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie will help guide you every step of the way. Knowing what to do after an accident can be overwhelming, so it is important to consult with an injury lawyer as soon as possible to protect your interests. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact us online or by phone at 403-571-0555 to learn how we can assist you.