The goal of daylight saving time is to leverage more sunlight throughout the changing seasons. Daylight saving time falls from March 10 through November 3 in 2024. As clocks are set forward, drivers across the country will navigate their daily schedules with an hour less of sleep. And while the shift may bring more sunlight, it also brings with it a concerning rise in daylight savings car crashes.

Read on to discover the added dangers your fleet drivers face and how your team can proactively combat them.

Daylight Savings Jeapordizes Road Safety

With more studies released in recent years, many continue to debate the effectiveness of daylight saving time. The disruption of daily routines has been tied to negative health effects such as higher rates of strokes and heart attacks. There’s also a concerning increase in vehicle-related crashes.

The University of Colorado at Boulder conducted a study analyzing the relationship between daylight saving time and the rise in fatal car crashes. After reviewing 732,000 crashes over two decades, researchers found that daylight saving time is associated with a 6% increase in fatal road-related incidents. These crashes occurred throughout the workweek following the “spring forward” time change. They also discovered that the further west a person lives in their time zone, the higher their risk of being in a deadly crash is during that week.

“Prior to 2007, we saw the risk increase in April, and when daylight saving time moved to March, so did the risk increase,” said Celine Vetter, an assistant professor of integrative physiology. “That gave us even more confidence that the risk increase we observe is indeed attributable to the daylight saving time switch, and not something else.”

3 Reasons Why the “Leap Forward” Affects Driving Ability

Driving Overtired

Losing an hour of sleep creates drowsy drivers. Sleepiness makes drivers less attentive, slows reaction time and can affect a driver’s ability to make the right decisions. Studies show that driving tired in many ways is the same as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. After 20 hours of being awake, drowsy drivers are impaired on a level equal to a 0.08% blood alcohol content, which is the current legal limit in most states. After 24 hours awake, impairment is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.1%.

Navigating Darker Conditions

As clocks spring forward, many drivers must adjust to navigating the roads before sunrise. Driving in the dark comes with its own set of risks. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that fatal crashes are three times more likely at night than at daytime.

Adjusting to a New Schedule

A sudden schedule change can induce stress, as many drivers find themselves running late. When drivers prioritize punctuality over safety, they often exceed speed limits.

Speeding is one of the leading causes of crashes, persisting as a significant concern over the years. According to NHTSA, speeding has been a factor in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities for more than two decades. In 2020, it contributed to 29% of all traffic fatalities.

How to Avoid Daylight Savings Car Crashes

The safety of your drivers should always be your top priority, especially during periods of increased risk like daylight saving time. It’s imperative to promote proper planning and training to mitigate these inevitable dangers effectively.

Encourage Proper Preparation

Lack of sleep can impair your drivers’  judgment and reaction time, increasing the likelihood of crashes. Encourage your team to get the right amount of sleep before operating a vehicle. Most adults require about seven to eight hours of good-quality sleep per night.

Your drivers must also inspect their vehicles thoroughly to ensure they’re ready to navigate darker conditions. Those who aren’t accustomed to driving in the dark must be extra defensive and proactively test all high beams, low beams, daytime running lights, turn signals and brake lights before hitting the road.

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Make sure to also stress to your drivers the importance of leaving with enough time. Rushing raises stress levels and encourages reckless driving habits. By departing earlier, your drivers can anticipate possible delays and adapt their speed accordingly. Cultivate a culture of punctuality in your company to minimize the risk of daylight saving time crashes caused by haste.

Assign Defensive Driving Courses

Invest in defensive driving courses for your drivers to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the challenges of daylight saving time. These courses emphasize techniques such as maintaining a safe following distance, scanning the road for potential hazards and being prepared to react to unexpected situations. By providing this training, you ensure your drivers are well-prepared for the increased risks associated with darker conditions and time change shifts.

Whether your team is made up of commercial drivers or employees driving to meet with clients, run errands or grab coffee for the office,  it’s your company’s responsibility to ensure drivers are making the right decisions while they’re on the clock.

Start with the Fundamentals of Defensive Driving

As schedule changes, new technologies and other potentially adverse conditions weave their way into everyday life, companies must implement a driver training program that emphasizes modern defensive driving skills. But with so many techniques to cover, where do you start?

Download our helpful checklist and discover the seven fundamentals of defensive driving that every fleet should cover.

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