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Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Pedestrian Deaths?        

Posted on February 21, 2024 in Pedestrian Accidents

Research has been done to determine the effect, if any, that Daylight Saving Time (DST) has on public safety. This includes potential effects on bicyclist, pedestrian and motor vehicle occupant fatalities in the country. While public opinion on DST varies, studies have shown that ending Daylight Saving Time could have risks in terms of increasing the number of pedestrian deaths.

What Is Daylight Saving Time? 

Daylight Saving Time is the practice of extending evening daylight by setting the clock forward by one hour in the warmer months of the year, typically starting in March. This shifts one hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. In the fall, the clock is set backward by one hour. This generally occurs in November. In the U.S., all states observe DST except Hawaii and Arizona, but those that do may have different start and end dates.

What Impact Does Daylight Saving Time Have on Pedestrian Safety?

Pedestrians are the road’s most vulnerable users, meaning they are at the highest risk from careless and reckless motor vehicle driver behaviors. One factor that often contributes to pedestrian accidents, injuries and deaths is a lack of visibility. Motor vehicle drivers may not see pedestrians who are crossing the road or walking alongside the curb, especially between the hours of dusk and dawn.

 As one accident analysis shows, there is a consistent and significant increase in pedestrian injuries and deaths when the clocks are set back in the fall. During this time, the sun sets earlier – often while many pedestrians and bicyclists are still out. Walking or jogging in dark lighting conditions increases the risk of a pedestrian getting hit by a car due to reduced road visibility.

The study found that pedestrian fatalities would be reduced by an estimated 171 deaths per year in full Daylight Saving Time, meaning if the clocks were not set back by an hour in early fall. This equated to 13 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the time periods between 5:00–10.00 a.m. and 4:00–9:00 p.m. Motor vehicle occupant deaths would also be reduced by an estimated 195 people per year.

Daylight Saving Time and Drowsy Driving

In addition to limiting the amount of daylight and impacting light conditions earlier in the day, Daylight Saving Time can also increase the risk of drowsy driving. The change in time can affect a driver’s sleep cycle, which in turn can contribute to drowsy, fatigued and distracted driving behaviors.

Drowsy driving is a significant traffic accident risk that has been compared to drunk driving in terms of its impact on a driver’s ability to safely operate and control a motor vehicle. The Sleep Foundation found that both drowsy driving and drunk driving have serious effects on a driver’s attention span, vigilance, judgment, decision-making and reaction times. Drowsy driving comes with a higher likelihood of causing pedestrian accidents.

Tips for Staying Safe as a Pedestrian After the Fall Time Change

It is important for all road users to be aware of the potential increase in accident risks after the clocks are set back one hour in the fall. Drivers should adjust their sleep cycles and be extra vigilant to prevent drowsy driving. 

Pedestrians should enhance their safety by improving their visibility as much as possible. If you can, avoid walking after sunset. Wear brightly colored clothing and a reflective vest if you plan on walking or jogging after the sun goes down. Stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings; do not get distracted by your cell phone.

If you get involved in a pedestrian accident this fall, contact the Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Rose, Klein & Marias LLP, for a free case consultation. You may be eligible for financial compensation.