Daylight Saving Time Warning: Road Crashes Increase in Days Following Clock Change

Originally published in Fleet Management Weekly 03/05/2019

By Jim Noble, VP of Risk Engineering, eDriving

It only seems like yesterday that we were celebrating the start of 2019 and already spring is just around the corner. The good news is that the evenings will soon be lighter for longer. The bad news is that we lose an hour of sleep on the day we begin daylight saving time (DST), and that can have a big impact on crash risk.

As we look ahead to the start of DST on Sunday March 10 (March 31 in the UK), it’s important to be aware of the effect the “clock change” can have on driver safety. Missing just one hour of sleep might seem trivial but studies have shown that “springing forward” one hour at the beginning of DST has a significant impact on traffic collisions.

One study, by the University of Colorado Boulder, discovered a 17% increase in traffic collisions on the Monday following the spring clock change, with road deaths higher than average for the remainder of the week. Similarly, a study conducted in New Zealand reported a 16% increase in crashes on the first day after DST and a 12% increase the day after that.

Experts blame missing out on one hour of sleep for many of these collisions. And the National Safety Council (NSC) warns that employees who already have a higher risk of being drowsy might be even more tired than usual because of the clock change. This includes shift workers, workers over the age of 40 and transportation professionals.

An NSC survey carried out in 2017 found that 43% of Americans reported not getting enough sleep to mitigate the impact on critical work and road safety risks, including the ability to think clearly, make informed decisions, and be productive. Remember, if you get less than the recommended amount of sleep for more than two nights you begin to build a cumulative sleep debt. For workers who are already sleep deprived, missing out on more sleep further increases risk levels. And, recovering from even a short amount of sleep deprivation can take several days.

eDriving’s tips to help minimize the impact of DST on crash risk:

  1. Go to bed about 10-15 minutes earlier every night for about a week before the start of DST.
  2. Adjust your clock to the new time earlier in the evening of the clock change so that you actually go to bed an hour earlier rather than going to bed at the usual time and missing out on sleep.
  3. If you cannot go to bed earlier, sleep for longer the next morning or have an afternoon nap on the Sunday (first day of DST).
  4. Avoid driving during peak times for fatigue-related collisions (2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., and in the afternoon between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.) following the clock change. If necessary adjust your regular schedule for the first few days of DST.
  5. Avoid distractions. This is important on any journey, regardless of time of day or time of year. However, it’s crucial not to add extra risk factors into the mix at the start of DST when you’re already at greater risk of reduced concentration.

eDriving’s white paper, Awake at The Wheel: Why Lack of Sleep is not a Badge of Honor but a License to Kill includes information for both managers and drivers on how to prevent fatigue-related collisions. This includes the key features of a successful fatigue risk management program, fatigue risk factors and sleep disorders, how to educate and communicate with employees, trip scheduling and route planning to help minimize fatigue risks and using telematics data to help identify fatigue warning signs.

About Jim Noble
Jim’s 40+ years in transportation encompass leadership positions in fleet operations management, logistics management, advocacy, driver safety and global risk management. As VP of Risk Engineering at eDriving he works to find innovative ways of harnessing the power of eDriving’s “Big Data” to produce actionable and easy-to-understand insights aimed at reducing customers’ risk profiles.

eDriving helps organizations to reduce collisions, injuries, license violations and total cost of ownership through a patented “closed-loop” driver behavior-based safety program that predicts risk and guides safer behaviors.