Virginia is one of many states that have considered doing away with daylight saving time, and various studies throughout the years show why this may be a good move. For example, studies show that the loss of one hour of sleep with the “spring forward” into DST can lead to increased cases of heart attack, stroke and work-related injury in the first week.
Now, a new study published in Current Biology shows that every year in the U.S., the number of fatal car crashes increases by 6% in the first week of spring DST. It increases by 8% in the westernmost areas of each time zone, most likely because the inhabitants there tend to sleep less than those living further east.
Researchers analyzed a total of 732,835 car crashes that occurred between 1996 and 2017 before coming to their conclusions. They found that the uptick in fatal crashes (some 28 every year) would always occur after the start of DST, even when DST was officially moved from April to March in 2007. The connection, then, is not arbitrary.
It makes sense that DST would lead to drowsy driving, but drivers can do something to avoid being affected. They can get to bed earlier in the days leading up to DST and minimize light exposure from phones and computers.
If drivers do nothing to avert drowsiness, they will act negligently behind the wheel. Drowsy driving, after all, can impair drivers’ attention and reaction times. Those injured by a drowsy or inattentive driver may have good grounds for a personal injury case, but in this state, they must be wholly innocent, or they will not recover any damages. This is known as the contributory negligence law. To see if their case holds up to this, victims may consult a lawyer.