Study connects spring DST with higher number of fatal crashes

Connecticut observes the spring switch to daylight saving time, which means residents lose an hour of sleep and possibly find themselves driving drowsy during the morning commute. They should know that one study has linked DST with a higher number of fatal auto accidents in the first week of the switch. The results were published in Current Biology in March 2020.

Researchers found that there are 6% more fatal accidents in the initial week of DST than in the week before it. This translates to some 28 more fatal crashes nationwide each year. Furthermore, the westernmost areas of every time zone experience an increase of 8%. Residents in these areas tend to be more sleep-deprived. For example, the residents of Amarillo, Texas, get 19 fewer minutes of sleep than do those in the rest of the time zone.

The study covered over 730,000 accidents that took place between 1996 and 2017. Up until 2007, the spike was always seen in April. In 2007, when the start of DST was pushed forward one month to March, the spike also moved to March, showing that the link is not coincidental.

Regarding the annual “fall back,” this also contributes to more accidents. These accidents tend to occur in the evening, though, due to the earlier sunset.

Drivers may be affected by DST, but they still have a responsibility to keep themselves and others safe on the road. When drowsiness prevents them from fulfilling this and they wind up being in car collisions, they can be held liable for any injuries sustained by the other side. Connecticut follows a modified comparative fault rule that states that plaintiffs who are 51% or less at fault can be eligible for compensation. Actually achieving a fair settlement is another matter, so victims may hire a lawyer.