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Hundreds of fatal crashes linked to spring daylight savings

Asleep at the wheel accident
On Sunday, residents of Indiana will lose an hour of sleep as we spring forward into daylight savings. Unlike most states, Indiana only began observing daylight savings after 2006.

The hour-change is problematic for many people – there is a spike in tiredness, health issues, workplace accidents, and traffic collisions.

The time change throws off our circadian rhythm (our internal clock that programs us to sleep) for two reasons:

  • Our circadian rhythms have to adjust to the time change
  • Our sleep schedule changes

Does daylight savings lead to drowsy driving?

Sure, most people have the luxury of resting on the Sunday of spring daylight savings, but the real problem occurs when the workweek begins.

Monday morning will be darker than it was before the time change. Lack of daylight is often a contributing factor in drowsy driving. That’s because our circadian rhythm is still hardwired for sleepiness. The sleep hormone melatonin is naturally released during dark conditions.

Moreover, drivers are at risk of dozing off behind the wheel during the rush hour commute – when they’re likely to spend more time behind the wheel.

Daylight savings may affect everyone differently. Those who receive adequate sleep (7-9 hours per night) will adjust within a day or two. Those who receive fewer than six hours of sleep per night will have a hard time adjusting.

Drowsiness most often affects drivers who:

  • Work overnight shifts, rotating shifts, or more than 60 hours per week
  • Spend long hours on the road (truck drivers and business travelers)
  • Are parents of babies and young children
  • Are under the age of 26
  • Have undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders
  • Travel across time zones and experience jet lag
  • Use prescription drugs
  • Have used alcohol or recreational drugs

Research shows a spike in crashes after daylight savings

Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder scrutinized more 732,835 crashes across the United States from 1996-2017. Crashes reports in Indiana were not included in the study, since daylight savings wasn’t observed during that entire period.

The study found that there was spike in crashes during the week that follows spring daylight savings each year. Prior to 2007, the spike would occur after the time change in April. After that, the spike occurred in March when daylight savings was changed.

The study found a consistent spike in crashes during the week following spring daylight savings in April prior to 2007. After that, it was observed in March, when daylight savings was moved. An estimated 627 road deaths occurred due to daylight savings from 1996-2017.

What should I do if a drowsy driver caused by crash?

Nobody chooses when to fall asleep. Drivers who are tired enough will eventually doze off, no matter how hard they try to fight it. When they cause a crash because they chose to continue driving despite the warning signs, they should be held accountable.

The Indiana attorneys at Vaughan & Vaughan have seen the devastation drowsy driving causes victims and their families. We have seen accidents caused by motorists and especially commercial truck drivers.

If you were hurt in a crash, contact us online and schedule your free case evaluation. We serve clients in the Lafayette area.

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