The Dark Side of Daylight Savings Time

Spring in Austin is finally making an appearance, and one of the traditional markers of this—daylight savings time—gives us an extra hour of sunshine (theoretically, although cloudy skies seem to prevail these days).

On his weekly news run-down, comedian John Oliver begged the question, “How is daylight savings time still a thing?” The sketch—alongside leaving us wondering why indeed we still adhere to this WWI money saving practice—pointed out an alarming fact. Daylight savings time actually increases the amount of fatal car crashes up to six days after ‘springing forward’.

A study from the University of Colorado Boulder shows that the first six days of daylight savings time caused 302 additional deaths and $2.75 billion in damages over 10 years. This is a 17% increase in fatalities—a shocking number in an otherwise routine time switch.

The science behind this trend has to do less with day versus night and more with losing an hour of sleep, which causes sleep cycles to be disrupted. Some of the top causes of negligent driving crashes are falling asleep and drowsy driving. Even an hour loss in sleep can slow reaction times. Lack of sleep also means heavy eyelids and highway hypnosis—that disconcerting feeling you get when you suddenly realize that you’ve been on ‘auto-pilot’ for miles.

The easiest and best way to combat this is simply to go to bed an hour early. You’ll be bright eyed and ready to take on the challenges of the road. Although you cannot account for the behavior of other negligent drivers, increasing your reaction time and being aware of your surroundings is key to preventing auto accidents.

Finally, why IS daylight savings time still a thing? Sometimes tradition takes precedent over common sense, and it certainly seems like this may be the case. Knowledge is power, and changing this practice might be in everyone’s best interest. Think about it, policy makers!

It's time to change daylight savings!