The end of Daylight Savings Time (DST) means drivers will soon be spending more time on the roads during hours of darkness.

And, with National Safety Council research showing that the risk of a fatal crash is three times greater at night, it’s important for drivers to be aware of how to maintain their safety on the roads as DST comes to an end. In the UK and Europe the clocks go back one hour at 2 a.m. on October 28. In the US it’s 2.a.m on November 4.

Why does the end of DST increase driver risk? 

Many drivers who are used to traveling home from work in the daylight can suddenly find themselves driving home in the dark. And while, initially, the mornings are lighter, before long many drivers will find themselves traveling in the dark both in the morning and the evening. For those who need to navigate rush hour traffic every day, this increase in darkness adds further risk to a situation that is already a potentially hazardous one.

Research tells us that the number of recorded injury crashes increases in the weeks following the end of DST. There are many potential reasons for this including reduced visibility in the dark, the impact of darkness on driver alertness and the impact of darkness on depth perception and peripheral vision.

Road safety tips for drivers in advance of the end of DST:

Prepare yourself for safe driving

  • Drive only when you’re well-rested, alert and unimpaired. Driving tired affects reaction times, attention, concentration and alertness and significantly increases crash risk. Learn about fatigue risk-factors and how to avoid driving tired
  • Have regular eyesight checks and remember that as people age, they have greater difficulty seeing at night
  • If you wear glasses, choose anti-reflective ones for driving in the dark
  • Adjust schedules if possible to reduce the hours spent driving in the dark

 Your vehicle

  • Keep your windshield clear to help with visibility
  • Check regularly that all lights are working including brake lights and indicators
  • Keep fluid levels topped up, including wash-wipe fluid
  • Aim headlights correctly
  • Dim the lights on the dash if you can
  • De-mist windows before setting off
  • Carry a basic emergency kit

On the road

  • Eliminate technology distractions by putting your phone out of sight and reach and setting up GPS before you start your trip
  • Minimize other distractions, such as intense conversations with passengers, eating/ drinking in your vehicle or playing loud music
  • Remember that visibility is reduced in the dark which means you have less time to react to something up ahead. Increase your following distance and adjust your speed to suit the conditions
  • Be patient and mindful of all other road users. Remember that some road users might be more difficult to see in the dark, particularly cyclists and pedestrians
  • Avoid letting yourself slip into “auto-pilot” on familiar routes. Stay alert throughout your trip
  • Be particularly mindful of darkness increasing risk levels between the hours of 3-6 p.m. as children make their way home from school and people travel home after busy days at work
  • Drive according to weather conditions – it takes around twice as long to stop on wet roads and up to ten times as long on icy roads
  • Employ defensive driving techniques, looking out for all road users and anticipating their actions
  • If you use full beam headlights remember to dip them when another vehicle is approaching
  • Remember that unfamiliar routes can look different in the dark