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Spring daylight savings may lead to more crashes

Car accident attorney Billings, Montana

It's days away until Montana residents set their clocks ahead one hour. On March 8, 2020, our evenings will be a little brighter as we thaw from the cold, dark winter.

The one-hour spring forward has its consequences, however. Research shows that it messes with our circadian rhythms (the body's natural clock) by causing us to lose an hour of sleep and disrupting our sleep schedule.

Fred Turek directs the Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology at Northwestern University. According to Turek, our circadian rhythm is "hard-wired."

"The internal clock has to catch up, and it takes a day or two to adjust to the new time," said Turek.

How does daylight savings contribute to drowsy driving crashes?

The days that follow will likely be a doozy for many Montana drivers. The time change not only makes us feel more tired, but it's often a contributing factor in many drowsy driving crashes.

According to a recent study conducted by the University of Colorado at Boulder, fatal collisions increase by six percent during the week the follows spring daylight savings. This study comes on the heels of several states looking to do away with daylight savings.

Celine Vetter is the senior author of the study and assistant professor of integrative physiology.

"Our study provides additional, rigorous evidence that the switch to daylight saving time in spring leads to negative health and safety impacts," said Vetter. "These effects on fatal traffic accidents are real, and these deaths can be prevented."

Researchers in the study analyzed approximately 732,835 crashes across the United States (except Arizona and Indiana) from 1996-2017. The study found a consistent spike in crashes during the week following spring daylight savings in April prior to 2007. After that, it was observed in March, when daylight savings was moved. The study estimated that roughly 627 traffic fatalities during the 22-year period were linked to daylight savings.

"That gave us even more confidence that the risk increase we observe is indeed attributable to the daylight saving time switch, and not something else," said Vetter.

The dark morning commute may also be a factor in the spike in crashes after daylight savings. The lack of light programs our internal clock to sleep by releasing the sleep hormone melatonin. The majority of the crashes observed in the study happened during the morning hours.

Can I take legal action if I was hurt in a crash with a drowsy driver?

Drowsy driving is preventable, even for those who are most at risk of falling asleep at the wheel. It results in about 800 traffic fatalities each year, however. There are several warning signs that indicate when it's time to get off the road. These include:

  • Heavy eyelids
  • Frequent blinking
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Poor memory of roadway landmarks and exits
  • Lane drifting

If you were hurt or lost a loved one in a crash caused by a drowsy driver, don't hesitate to take legal action. An experienced car accident attorney at Braukmann Law, PLLC can help you explore your legal options and devise a strategy to maximize your compensation. Contact us online to find out how. We serve clients in greater Billings, Montana.

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