Does Time Change Affect the Number of Traffic Deaths?

Daylight saving time (DST) begins when we add an hour to the clock in March and ends when we set the hour back in November. It is intended to allow for longer days in the warmer months and shorter days in the colder months. Each year when the time changes, there is debate over whether “spring forward, fall back” is a good thing or a bad thing. Now some suggest DST is actually dangerous due to the increased risk of traffic-related deaths.

So, when did we begin using daylight savings time, and do we still need it in a modern society with readily available lighting at all hours of the day?

History of the Daylight Savings Time Clock Change

The concept of “saving daylight” by changing the clocks first became a widely adopted practice during World War I. In 1916, Germany instituted daylight saving time to conserve energy during wartime, and thereafter England followed suit. The United States also adopted DST in March of 1918, not long after it had entered the conflict. 

The practice of turning back the clock was debated even back then. Though commonly believed to be the case, farmers were not supporters of DST. At that time farmers depended on the sun to dry their crops before harvest. This left customers waiting for their produce in the early hours, before the farmers even had a chance to get to the market. 

Daylight savings time was repealed in the United States in 1919. However, Congress eventually passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966 to provide clarity and consistency on the practice, which was still being observed in varying parts of the country. The act made it up to individual states to decide on following daylight saving time, which is why DST varies from state to state.

U.S. Debates Making Daylight Savings Time Permanent

Daylight saving time continues to be a contentious issue. There are a number of inherent problems with it, not the least of which is confusion as to which states observe it and which do not. Other reasons why DST clock changes cause stress range from disruption in people’s sleep patterns and schedules, to a noticeable lack of daylight hours in the morning when the time ‘springs ahead’.

Legislation concerning daylight saving time is once again under consideration in the U.S. Earlier this year, the Senate passed a bill that would make DST permanent in 2023, ending the twice-annual changing of clocks. The bill has yet to go before the House.

As Reuters reports, a 2019 poll that found 71% of Americans prefer to no longer switch their clocks. As to the question of which time frame to follow, proponents of the permanent DST say that it would allow children to play outdoors later and help reduce seasonal depression. Opponents of the bill, including the National Association of Convenience Stores, are concerned with children having to travel to school in the dark.

Traffic Safety Issues Associated with Daylight Savings Time

Among the pros and cons debated with daylight savings time, road safety is now on the list of considerations. A recent Time Magazine article reports that some experts believe changing the clocks permanently could help mitigate traffic risks.

The article cites a 2004 study in Accident Analysis and Prevention, which finds that an extra “hour of sunlight in the evening year-round would save the lives of more than 170 pedestrians annually” and “nearly 200 vehicle occupants would also theoretically be saved by the change.”

Beyond this, a study published in 2020 by the University of Colorado Boulder reports that “fatal car accidents in the United States spike by 6% during the workweek following the “spring forward” to daylight saving time, resulting in about 28 additional deaths each year”. Add to that, another recent study that finds the end of daylight saving time “causes a 16% increase in collisions between deer and vehicles in the week after the time change.”   

Whether it’s due to poor visibility in the dark or difficulty adapting to the abrupt, overnight change in the time, research does suggest that DST does affect drivers, leading to dangerous driving and the potential for traffic-related fatalities.

Since the end of daylight savings clock changes has yet to be determined, law enforcement agencies will need to assess the level of DST-related traffic dangers in their localities. If the threat is there, Kustom Signals has tools that can help.

Stop Dangerous Driving Behaviors Throughout the Year with Tools from Kustom Signals

Kustom Signals can help law enforcement warn the public against distracted or dangerous driving due to daylight savings time. Our smart Variable Messaging Trailers (VMT) can be used to remind drivers to be on alert in the days leading up to and following the time change. In cities, suburbs, or rural areas, our RADAR speed and messaging trailers are the perfect tools to increase awareness of speed and potential safety risks. Designed for static and dynamic messages, VMS trailers can be quickly installed and are equipped with amber LED lights for outstanding visibility. 

Kustom also offers LaserCam 4 to help law enforcement agencies deal with dangerous driving, no matter what the cause. Track and record dangerous driving behavior with this new handheld LIDAR. The LaserCam 4 with 36x optical zoom delivers irrefutable evidence of your target-specific tracking history. The optical zoom and high-resolution rear display enable target tracking history and speed estimations at a greater range that is not possible on competitor devices.

Contact us to learn more about how Kustom Signals can assist your agency.

Categories : Urban Policing

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