Residents of New Jersey will want to take care that they do not drive drowsy after the spring switch to daylight saving time. DST has long been considered a factor in drowsy driving since it takes away an hour of sleep and disrupts everyone’s sleep schedule, but a new study goes further and links it with an increase in fatal car crashes.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder analyzed hundreds of thousands of accidents that arose between 1996 and 2017 and concluded that in the first week of DST, the number of fatal car crashes goes up 6%. It spikes 8% in those cities that lie on the westernmost edges of each time zone like Amarillo, Texas, and St. George, Utah. The sun rises and sets later in these areas, and residents sleep less.
The rise in fatal crashes was not coincidental but consistently followed after the switch to DST even when the start of the switch was pushed forward from April to March in 2007. The results may give support to those states, such as Florida, Alabama and Washington, that are debating if DST should be abolished altogether.
DST has been linked to other health risks, including heart attack and stroke. Drowsiness is one effect, and it can impair drivers’ risk assessment abilities and reaction times.
Those who suffer serious injuries in motor vehicle crashes may discuss with a lawyer whether they can file a third-party insurance claim. One thing to keep in mind is that drowsy driving can be hard to prove. It is considered an underreported phenomenon. With a lawyer, though, victims may have access to a network of investigators who can help build up the case. They may then allow the lawyer to speak on their behalf at the negotiation table.