Be careful: Time change can lead to more accidents

A day when everyone has the potential of getting an extra hour of sleep might seem like an odd time to remind drivers to be extra careful on the road. But that’s exactly what the National Road Safety Foundation does every year.

At 1:59 a.m. on Sunday, clocks will be turned back one hour as daylight saving time comes to an end.

And with the change in the clock — whether it’s fall or spring — comes an increase in the number of traffic accidents.

A 2000 study by Jason Varughese and Richard Allen looked at data from 21 years’ worth of fatal accidents in the United States. Not surprisingly, the study found that in the spring (when an hour is lost) there was a significant increase in the number of accidents on the Monday following the time change. The researchers attributed the spring accidents to sleep deprivation.

But they also found an increase in accidents on the Sunday of the fall time change. The researchers believe that increase is due to changes drivers make in their behavior anticipating the longer day. In other words, they think people tend to drive later in the night or early morning on the day of the time change, increasing the risk of driving under the influence of alcohol or driving while sleepy.

In Lawrence, and all across Kansas, bars stay open an hour longer on Sunday morning since clocks are technically pushed back a minute before the 2 a.m. closing time.

“It’s a riskier time to be on the road,” said David Reich, director of public relations for the National Road Safety Foundation, of the days surrounding the time change.

For the National Road Safety Foundation, the concern is that the fall time change throws off people’s sleep patterns and has more people driving in the dark during evening hours.

The organization uses the time change to remind people of the dangers of drowsy driving, which can cause slower reaction times, vision impairment, lapses in judgment and delays in processing information. Drowsy driving is especially prevalent among teens.

“A lot of schools and parents understand about drinking and driving, but the drowsiness, we just don’t think about it as much,” Reich said.

To avoid driving drowsy, the National Road Safety Foundation recommends:

• Getting a good night’s sleep before hitting the road.

• Allowing for plenty of time to get to your destination.

• Driving with a buddy.

• Not drinking alcohol before driving.

• Avoid driving at times when you are normally sleeping.