Daylight Saving Time begins March 11. That means we’ll all lose an hour of sleep. And there are other things about the time change to lament besides a little less shut eye. The beginning of Daylight Saving Time actually brings with it dangerous side effects related to road safety.
Lytx VP of Safety Services Del Lisk explains why the Monday morning and evening commutes after a time change are so challenging for drivers (and how fleet safety managers can ensure their drivers turn in safe and sound Monday night).
Fatigued drivers behind the wheel could be more prone to collisions. While people may lose an hour of sleep on Saturday night, it may not change what time they go to bed. Problem is, “by the time people go back to work on Monday, the body hasn’t adjusted to the new sleep schedule,” Lisk said. That means Monday morning drivers tend to be more fatigued, less alert, and have slower reaction times, Lisk said. And the evening commute isn’t much better.
A 2016 University of Colorado Boulder study found that collisions spike in the days following a time change. “At the very least, greater fatigue leads to less attentive driving,” Lisk said. “If traffic is slowing ahead, a fatigued driver is likely to recognize the slowdown late, and it could result in a rear-end collision. By Monday morning, the body and mind have not adjusted to the time change, and it can show in drivers’ slower reaction times.”
A tired driver also is less likely to scan mirrors, Lisk said, increasing the chances of a driver to change lanes without looking or be surprised by the maneuvers of other drivers.
A change in daylight patterns affects circadian rhythms. A Society for Neuroscience study found that disruption of the day and night cycle leads to weight gain, impulsive behavior and slower thinking, among other problems. With a disrupted sleep cycle, Lisk said, “again, fatigue increases—and in congested end-of-day traffic where pedestrians, road markings and potholes are harder to see in the dark. It creates a dangerous situation,” especially considering that nearly three out of four pedestrian deaths occur at nighttime and distracted pedestrians are on the rise.
Beware the angle of the sun. The onset of Daylight Saving Time means drivers heading to work will be on the road an hour later than usual Monday morning, when the sun is positioned differently than what drivers are used to. That means the sun could be shining directly into your drivers’ eyes when they’re starting their workday. With more fatigued drivers on the road and potentially diminished visibility, “it makes for a bad cocktail,” Lisk said.
So how can drivers adjust to these challenges? By remembering three simple S’s, Lisk said:
Schedule. Encourage them to start their journey a few minutes earlier so they’re not feeling rushed—about 15 minutes earlier should suffice. “When drivers are rushed, they tend to feel anxious and make poor decisions,” Lisk said.
Speed. Have them reduce their speed by about five to 10 miles per hour, Lisk said. It’s a simple move that gives drivers more reaction time. If your drivers are driving at a slower speed, they’ll have more time to respond and won’t require as much stopping distance.
Space. Remind them to leave extra space between themselves and the vehicle ahead. The extra space provides a greater buffer to protect against collisions in the morning rush hour and gives drivers additional time to safely see, think and act. Bonus tip: To prepare for the time change, drivers could set their alarms a bit earlier on Friday and Saturday mornings before the time change, Lisk said. It will make it easier for them to be ready for Monday morning.