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Do Car Accidents Increase When the Clocks Fall Back?

fall call accidents

Getting an extra hour of sleep at the end of daylight saving time (DST) in November might seem like a wonderful gift. However, your body adapts more slowly to the time change than you might think. As a result, the week following the end of DST tends to go hand-in-hand with a spike of car accidents.

What causes this phenomenon, especially when drivers should be well-rested thanks to the additional hour of sleep? Two major problems are at play. The first is the circadian rhythm, and the other is nighttime driving.

What is the Circadian Rhythm?

Your body becomes accustomed to a routine. This is why it can be tough to sleep in on Saturday until 7:00 a.m. after getting up every weekday at 5:00 a.m. for work. Even though you want to stay in bed, your mind says it is time to get up. This internal clock is known as the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the internal process of regulating your sleep-wake cycle.

The circadian rhythm is not just associated with routine, however. It can be connected to sunlight, too. The presence of natural light encourages the brain to become “awake” to tackle activities.

During the time change, the body’s expectations of when it will be light and dark suddenly change. Instead of being light at 6:00 p.m., it is dark outside. The body needs to adjust to the time change. Usually, this process of adjustment takes about a week. Until then, you might find driving more challenging.

Nighttime Car Accidents

Another reason that drivers get in more crashes immediately after the end of DST is due to nighttime driving. Since it gets dark earlier, many people will end up driving after the sun has already gone down.

Getting used to this difference can be difficult. If you are out of the habit of driving in heavy traffic when it is dark, you may end up speeding or have trouble seeing pedestrians or vehicles. Your eyes and brain will need about five to seven days to feel completely at ease.

How Can Drivers Prepare for DST?

Knowing that the end of DST can make driving a little more challenging, drivers should be ready to take a few steps to prepare for the change. Some precautionary measures can help everyone work through DST with minimal problems.

Here are some important driving safety tips to help you prepare for driving in November:

  • Pay extra attention to the road. You may know your commute so well that you feel like you could drive on auto-pilot. Resist the urge to let your mind wander. Instead, pay attention during your morning and evening commutes. This is especially critical in the evening hours when you may be driving at night.
  • Watch out for drowsy driving. Many people are sensitive to any switches in their sleep-wake cycle. Plus, some people like to stay up extra late Saturday night, which puts them into a sleep deprivation mode by Monday morning. When you are sleepy behind the wheel, you are more prone to making mistakes. Before the time change, try to adjust your sleep schedule a week or so prior.
  • Be alert for the signs of seasonal affective disorder. Did you know that some people experience intense depression and sadness when faced with DST and waning daylight? If you think you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), talk with your primary care physician. Getting a diagnosis can help you feel better. It can also help you keep focus while you are on the road.
  • Stay on the lookout for darting animals. Animals are not aware of the end of DST, and they can still dart out in front of your car. In fact, more deer-related car accidents happen in November than any other time of the year. During the fall, deer often cross highways and rural roads at dusk or in the evening. Make sure to drive defensively on your commute back home or if you are driving back home after errands when it is dark.
  • Double-check your car’s lights. Many people do not realize how infrequently they use their headlights and taillights during the summer and early autumn months. Before DST, give your car’s lights a once-over, and replace any that are not working. You may need to clean the lights if they are dirty.
  • Get used to changing weather. Fall is the beginning of cooler weather. You may end up driving in icy rain in November. Always look at your weather app so you are not surprised by changing road conditions.

Can All DST Car Accidents Be Prevented?

An accident can happen at any time, even if you do all the right steps to prevent one after you turn back your clock an hour. If you find yourself in an drowsy driving accident, stay calm, and get medical treatment if it is necessary.

After a drowsy driving collision, you should consider speaking with a lawyer. Setting up a consultation takes very little time, and speaking with a legal professional can provide you with recommendations moving forward.

Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Can Help You if a Drowsy Driver Caused Your Injury

More car accidents are likely following the end of DST. For this reason, you should prepare for the time change. If a drowsy driving accident left you with a serious injury, contact our Delaware car accident lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. today. Contact us online or call us at 302-656-5445 for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.