Spring Forward, Safely | Onlia

Spring Forward, Safely: Safe Driving Tips for Daylight Savings

Take a look at these tips to make sure you're prepared when the clocks roll forward.

Alex Kelly
by Alex Kelly
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Daylight savings time always feels like it sneaks up on you – all of a sudden, the clocks roll forward, and everything seems a little hazy for a week. This year, March 14th, 2021, marks the start of Daylight Savings Time (DST). While those brighter evenings mean we are a little closer to warmer weather, DST will also leave your 6 AM wake up call feeling like it is still 5 AM. 

Beyond the inconvenience, sleepiness is a real threat; the time change may increase the potential for collisions on the road during your morning commute, or on your way home after a long day of errands. Read on about how to stay safe and awake for the upcoming time change. 

Spring versus fall 

Clocks switch twice a year – in the spring, and again in the fall. That fall time change tends to get a lot of press, and for good reason. Darker afternoons coincide with increased traffic, with many pedestrians and commuters all waging the good fight to get home. However, springtime changes bring darker mornings, something that presents just as much – if not more – danger on the roads.

No matter what time of year it is, an Onlia survey of drivers found that 76% of respondents want to be better driving in the dark, but noted it was hard to spot pedestrians. Combined with the drowsiness and fatigue of a time change, this disadvantage can be lethal. A bit of preparedness can set you up for a darker commute, giving you better skills behind the wheel. 

Science of springing forward

Some researchers have found an increase of collisions immediately following Daylight Savings Time, with varied hypotheses as to why.

As the clocks change overnight between Saturday and Sunday, some scientists think people stay up later Sunday night, making the early Monday morning shock even worse. Other researchers point to the impact that Daylight Savings Time has on your circadian rhythm, a type of body clock that correlates to daylight hours. The abrupt loss of an hour disrupts your body, leaving it confused and tired. Some people can muscle through, while others feel more profound impacts on their cognitive function. 

Regardless of why you feel drowsy, the impacts are real, particularly on the Monday following Daylight Savings Time. Studies have discovered an uptick in the number of automobile incidents and an increase in the number and severity of workplace injuries immediately following the clock change. The loss of sleep may make essential driving tasks, like focusing, difficult. Drivers may feel like their reaction time is longer, leading to poor decisions behind the wheel. Compounded with the potential for a March that still features wintery weather, Daylight Savings Time can make your commute treacherous. 

Stay safe on the road

With Daylight Savings Time is around the corner, there are a few things you can do to prepare for the Monday morning commute. Expect tiredness as your body tries to get used to the changing clocks. Researchers suggest going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for the week before Daylight Savings Time. Failing that, prioritize a good night's sleep the Sunday before, a possible antidote to the confusion of Daylight Savings Time. Following a proper bedtime routine, ditching tech before bed, and sleeping in a cool, dark room will give you quality downtime. 

The morning of, give yourself plenty of time to commute. The morning will be darker, so extra time will help you navigate the streets mindfully. Stow any distractions so that you can focus on your drive, looking out for pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers. Should you start to feel drowsy behind the wheel, pull over for a rest before continuing on with your ride. Proactively manage your sleepy self with a proper breakfast, excellent hydration, carpool buddy, or engaging podcast. 

If you're feeling tip-top the morning after Daylight Savings Time, congrats – please share your secrets! But stay on the lookout, as the others you share the road with may be combatting time-change drowsiness, resulting in poor driving behaviours. This is something to discuss with your family, so they are also prepared for their Monday morning activities, whether cycling to school or walking the dog. We all need to look out for one another. 

Bottom line

Daylight Savings Time may feel like an unnecessary inconvenience, one that countries always debate the effectiveness of. But we see it as one step closer to summer– bring on the longer days and juicy heat! The drowsiness will fade after a week of proper bedtime, and the morning's darkness is a temporary path to lighter days ahead.
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