Road Safety Tips for Daylight Saving Time

Reset your clock and your mindset toward road safety.

A man checks the time on his watch while seated at his desk. iStock

Daylight saving time (DST) was first used in the U.S. during World War I, earning it its original title, War Time. The goal was to reduce energy costs during the war effort, and shortly after WWI, daylight saving time was dropped as a practice. Congress brought it back for World War II but didn’t solidify it as Americans know it today until 1966.  

Stay safe during daylight saving time.

There’s been debate about the need for DST in recent years, and one reason is the safety risks associated with changing of the clocks and losing an hour of sleep. So, as you’re resetting the clock, be sure to reset your thinking when it comes to road safety. 

One area to watch as the time changes is drowsy driving. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drowsy driving likely influences 16% to 20% of fatal crashes. The report also found that drivers don’t usually take breaks unless they feel severe drowsiness. However, even when drivers rate their drowsiness as low, 75% were actually moderately to severely drowsy. Without intentionality, it can be difficult to assess your own drowsiness during any time of the year, much less with an altered sleep schedule after a time change.

In a study spanning 20 years, Current Biology describes what it calls DST effect, which leads to drowsiness and a thrown-off internal clock that can yield hazardous results on the road. In studying over 732,000 car crashes, Current Biology concluded that there’s a 6% rise in fatal crashes during the first week of DST. 

As your body adjusts to the time change, do what you can to sleep better at night by following an early bedtime routine and reducing screen time before falling asleep. During the day, find ways to stay awake on the road, whether that’s carpooling, drinking caffeine in moderation or exercising before driving. Taking a break every two hours or 100 miles can also help you stay alert.

Pull quote stating "In studying over 732,000 car crashes, Current Biology concluded that there’s a 6% rise in fatal crashes during the first week of DST."

What’s the benefit of daylight saving time?

One upside of DST is that it's a chance to reduce energy consumption, as less light is needed in your home or office. Join this sustainability effort on the road by shopping locally to decrease the need for cross-country shipping, or ride a bicycle, when possible, to reduce emissions. To find more tips for an ecofriendly lifestyle, consult this list

What’s the future of daylight saving time?

Known as the Sunshine Protection Act, an effort to make daylight saving time a year-round practice has been underway in recent years. Some states have lobbied harder than others for the Sunshine Protection Act, but the future of DST is still unknown.

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