On March 8, South Carolinians will shift their clocks forward one hour to mark the beginning of Daylight Saving Time (DST). With the transition, Americans lose one hour of sleep and are at an increased risk of being involved in deadly car accidents, according to researchers.
A new study in the journal Current Biology found that auto accident deaths rise 6 percent in the week after the spring time change, resulting in about 28 fatal crashes per year.
Scientists say that springing forward contributes to crashes by disrupting sleep patterns, putting drowsy drivers on the roads each morning while it’s still dark. Essentially, motorists are in a state of “mini-jetlag,” where their normal sleep and wake cycles are suddenly thrown off balance.
This is not the first time that researchers have linked the spring shift to Daylight Saving Time with a rise in auto accidents. Several studies have shown a significant increase in crashes, especially on the Monday following the time change. In addition, the spring switch has been attributed to a spike in the number of workplace accidents, heart attacks, strokes and even suicides.
These latest results come just after South Carolina passed a bill that would allow the Palmetto State to remain on DST if the federal government allows it, something that both Gov. Henry McMaster and the Trump Administration have said they support.
Drowsy Driving: A Serious Problem
Daylight Saving Time aside, drowsy driving is already a concern for U.S. motorists. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1 in 25 adult drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel.
Closer to home, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety’s most current statistics show that 536 traffic collisions in a single year involved a driver who was fatigued or asleep. Of those crashes, three people died and 274 others were injured.
Sleepy drivers are dangerous drivers for several reasons:
- They are less able to pay attention to the roads.
- They have slower reflexes, causing delays in their reaction times if an emergency arises.
- They are more likely to make careless driving decisions.
Preparing Yourself To Spring Forward
Sleep experts say that there are ways to prepare yourself for the upcoming switch to DST. Tips include:
- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier in the week leading up to the time change. You will need to shift your wake times as well.
- Turn the lights on as soon as you wake up. Light plays a huge role in regulating your sleep and wake cycle.
- Use blackout curtains. Make your room dark and cool to help your body get into sleep mode, even if it’s light outside.
- Don’t increase your caffeine. Many people rely on caffeine to get through the morning lull, but upping your intake to cope with Daylight Saving Time could make it more difficult to get to bed at night.
- Listen to your body. If you’re too tired to get behind the wheel, don’t drive. It’s better to call in late to work or make your kids tardy for school than risk a crash.
Skilled South Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Are Here To Help
The personal injury attorneys at Stewart Law Offices represent clients who have been injured in accidents in both Carolinas. If you were in a car accident involving a drowsy driver, contact us today for a free consultation.