Why Daylight Saving Time Could Increase Your Chances of a Car Accident and What You Can Do About It in 2024

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It is time to “spring ahead” in Washington. As reported by Fox 13 Seattle, the official daylight savings time change will happen at 2:00 AM on Sunday, March 10th. We will lose an hour of sleep. Daylight savings time can be a controversial topic. Even a bill pending in the Washington legislature would eliminate it altogether. 

There is strong evidence that daylight savings time—or at least the clock adjustment associated with it—leads to a temporary but notable increase in the risk of car accidents. Here, our Seattle auto accident attorneys provide an overview of the research and highlight tips that you can use to avoid ending up in a crash. 

Know the Data: “Spring Forward” Daylight Savings and an Increases Car Accidents 

Did you know that car crashes increase yearly when we set our clocks forward? According to data from a comprehensive study published by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, fatal car accidents in the United States “spike by six percent” each year in the first workweek following the spring daylight savings clock adjustment. 

For reference, that means that an average of 28 additional motor vehicle fatalities happen each year after spring daylight savings. Many more people sustain severe injuries in these crashes. During the second workweek following spring daylight savings, the increase is reduced. By week three, car accident rates are essentially back to “normal.” It should be noted that these researchers did not find the same effect on fall daylight savings.  

The Risk is Likely Even Higher in the Seattle Metro Area: Researchers found that car accidents increase following the springtime daylight savings throughout the country. They also found that the risk is highest the further west you travel within a time zone. As Seattle sits in the western corner of the Pacific time zone, the risk is heightened in our metro area. 

Why Do Car Accidents Rise in the First Workweek Following Spring Daylight Saving

The data is precise: Serious car accidents are more likely during the first week following daylight savings. Further, those additional crashes are disproportionately expected to happen in the morning hours—most often during the morning commute. Researchers cite two leading causes: 

  1. People Drive Sleep Deprived: In Spring, daylight savings means that there will be a 23-hour day. Many people adjust for that lost hour by simply skipping an hour of sleep. Lack of sleep significantly impairs driving ability. It adversely impacts reaction time, decision-making, and general alertness. Sleep-deprived drivers are more likely to end up in a crash. Alarmingly, spring daylight savings even leads to more accidents in the afternoon (when more light is available). The likely reason is sleep deprivation. 
  2. People Suddenly Drive in the Dark: Spring daylight savings also leads to (suddenly) dark morning commutes for many people. On March 8th, 2024, the official sunrise in Seattle happened at 6:35 AM. On March 11th, 2024, the Seattle sunrise will occur at 7:29 AM. That hour gets shifted from the morning to the afternoon. Many people will suddenly have all or part of their morning commute in the dark. Less light means more accidents per mile driven. 

Five Tips to Avoid Accidents Following Daylight Savings in 2024

With the knowledge that the first workweek following the “Spring Forward” daylight savings adjustment carries additional safety risks, motorists in Washington can prepare themselves to help avoid accidents. Here are five safety tips that you can use: 

  1. Plan Your Schedule: Sleep deprivation is a significant risk factor for car accidents. Adjusting your schedule before the transition to daylight savings time can mitigate the impact of losing an hour of sleep. Keep your bedtime and meal times relatively stable to limit the impact on your circadian rhythm. 
  2. Adjust Your Lighting: To ease the transition, adjust your home’s lighting. As daylight extends into the evening, use dimmer switches and lower-wattage bulbs to encourage your body’s natural production of melatonin—the hormone responsible for sleep. Try to expose yourself to as much light as possible in the morning. 
  3. Prepare for Dark Conditions (Morning): It will not be as light in the morning. Drivers who must start their commute before 8:00 AM should be prepared for that adjustment. The shift to DST means darker mornings, which can be particularly challenging for drivers accustomed to daylight during their morning commute. Ensure your vehicle’s headlights and taillights are clean and functioning correctly. 
  4. Practice Defensive Driving. Defensive driving is saving driving. It is a practice that becomes even more crucial during the first week following spring daylight savings. With an increase in potentially sleep-deprived drivers, being vigilant and defensive on the road can prevent accidents. Always maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you, minimize distractions, and be prepared for sudden stops or erratic behavior from other drivers. 
  5. Limit Driving (First Week): Finally, one of the best steps you can take to reduce the risk of a car accident is to limit your driving. You can do everything right, but you could still end up the victim of another driver’s negligence. Limiting your time on the road after daylight savings—especially during the pre-dawn morning commute—can reduce your risk. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Washington Car Crash Attorney Today

At Premier Law Group, PLLC, our Washington auto accident lawyers are skilled, aggressive advocates for injured victims. Were you injured in a motor vehicle collision? We can help. Our firm is committed to advocating for the maximum financial compensation for clients. Contact us today to set up your free, no-obligation initial consultation. With offices in Seattle, Federal Way, Renton, and Bellevue, we handle car accident injury claims throughout the region.