Spring Equinox & Driving
Take extra care when driving after the clocks change
Today is spring equinox, and looking forward to the end of the week when the clocks going forward an hour, it’s finally the start of British Summer Time. From 1am on Sunday 26 March, we will lose an hour in bed, but can look forward to longer, lighter evenings.
Motorists can once again enjoy the prospect of driving home after work in daylight, rather than the gloomy darkness of winter.
But according to a number of international studies, when the clocks change, there is a rise in road accidents for a several days afterwards.
Research findings once the clocks have changed
Back in 1999, U.S. researchers at Johns Hopkins and Standford Universities, looked at what happens on the road after the clocks change. They studied 21 years of official U.S. fatal car crash data and found that there was a small, but significant increase in road deaths on the Monday after the clocks moved forward in spring. The number of fatalities increased to around 83.5 on the Monday after the clock change, compared to a typical Monday which was 78.2.
The study suggested that people still feel sleep deprived on the Monday, because they still hadn’t fully adjusted to the change in time, just like with jet lag.
It’s only one hour sleep lost, but it can make a huge difference to routines, concentration and reaction levels. The Sleep Research Laboratory at Loughborough University found that it can take days to recover from the disruption to the body clock after the clocks change. This combined with poor visibility due to low light in the mornings, all contribute to an increase in road traffic accidents in the days following the clocks changing.
Impact on health
There has also been some worrying research findings on the impact of the clock change on our health. Last year, researchers in Finland claimed they found that strokes and heart attacks increased over the two days following the clocks either going forwards or backwards.
However, some experts disagree with these findings. They argue that it’s probably more likely to be the mixture of some sleep loss, the body clock out of sync and also the fact that people are often more tired and stressed on a Monday morning after the clocks change.
Be safe after the clock change when driving
Although the mornings may be slightly darker for a while after the clocks go forward, motorists already have to deal with routinely driving in the dark during winter, so have experience with driving in these conditions. From using lights appropriately, keeping windows clear and keeping the car in good and roadworthy condition all combine to improve road safety.
But to be on the safe side, in the first few days after the clock change, make sure you take extra care when out on the roads. And if you can, try to get enough sleep in the days before.
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