Study: Daylight Saving Time leads to more car crashes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Each time we “spring forward” or “fall back,” there are renewed questions about whether or not we even need to change the clocks twice a year.

For some, the hour of sleep lost over the weekend meant getting out the door a little later Monday morning.

But according to AAA Northeast’s John Paul, the risk goes beyond that.

“When people lose that hour’s worth of sleep, we’ve seen that crash rates go up anywhere from 10 to 17 percent,” Paul said. He’s the Senior Manager of Traffic Safety for AAA Northeast.

Drowsiness is to blame for the uptick in accidents, according to several studies, including one from the University of Colorado entitled “Spring Forward at Your Own Risk.”

That 2014 study found an increased risk of fatal crashes of 5.4-7.6 percent immediately after daylight saving time begins.

“Monday and Tuesday of this week can be a little bit dangerous,” Paul said, warning of the dangers of drowsy driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says there are no precise counts of crashes caused by drowsy driving.

Immediately available statistics in Rhode Island did not fit the study’s claims. According to Rhode Island State Police, three drivers crashed during the Monday morning commute between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Those numbers showed no increase when compared to the average number of crashes from the previous five Monday mornings.

In New York, however, the city’s Commissioner of the Department of Transportation said over the past five years, morning crashes increased by 30% compared to the week before, immediately after DST began.

There’s currently a proposal at the Rhode Island Statehouse to effectively stay in daylight saving time forever – by joining the Atlantic Time Zone — but only if Massachusetts lawmakers pass their bill to do so.

The change would mean disappointment for early risers who like daylight earlier – but it would eliminate any changing clocks that affect sleep patterns.

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