Daylight Saving Time Change Impacts Safety Behind the Wheel

The Positive and Negative Impacts on Driving When an Hour of Daylight Shifts from Morning to Evening

Community, Traffic Safety

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (March 6, 2020) – This Sunday, a majority of clocks in the United States “spring forward” one hour in observance of Daylight Saving Time. When we adjust our clocks during the summer months, we shift an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, when Americans are most active. Since 50% of all automobile crashes occur at night, adding another hour of daylight at the end of the day can have a long-term, positive effect on safety.

Since drivers lose an hour of sleep and the morning commutes are suddenly darker again, the positive impacts of Daylight Saving Time change might not be immediately seen. “The sudden shift in light for the weeks following Daylight Saving Time change won’t magically cause drivers to slow down or make pedestrians pay extra attention in the morning,” said Chris Claeson, Manager of Drivers Programs at AAA Minneapolis.

Instead, “everyone needs to be intentional about their morning commutes and routines for the days immediately following the time change, especially if you live on or near a school route where children are waiting for the bus, getting in and out of cars, or crossing the roadways,” Claeson continued.

In order to remain vigilant and keep drivers, pedestrians, and students safe, AAA recommends:

  • Slow down. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle travel 25 mph is two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.
  • Use your headlights. Turning your headlights on allows pedestrians, bikers, and other vehicles see you easier. This is especially important the weeks following the Daylight Saving Time change.
  • Stay Alert. Drivers should always avoid distractions, but it’s particularly important in school zones, residential neighborhoods, and high foot-traffic areas. Reminder: Minnesota is a hands-free state.
  • Get enough sleep. According to AAA Foundation research, drivers who have slept for less than 5 hours have a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk. Additionally, missing just one or two hours of sleep, something that happens when you lose an hour during the time change, nearly doubles the risk for a crash.

Instead of assuming you will be fine driving after the time change, be intentional about your morning commute and not driving drowsy. Prioritize at least 7 hours of sleep a night, even if that means going to bed earlier on Saturday and Sunday night this week and do your best to remain distraction free and focused while driving.