March 7, 2013
Gridlock Sam recommends more sleep to fight wooziness on Monday’s Commute
Data collected by several national road and safety organizations indicates increased crash and fatality rates the week after daylight savings time (DST) takes effect. Most of these incidents occur the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as early morning drivers suddenly find themselves in total darkness.
“When I was Traffic Commissioner, I always noticed a surge in crashes the week after daylight savings. That’s when I realized the full effect of the daylight savings time shift,” says Sam (Gridlock Sam) Schwartz.
A study by Professor Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia compared traffic fatalities for the Monday immediately following DST shift with those of the previous and following Mondays. Analyzing 10 years’ worth of data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System, which is maintained by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Dr. Coren found that the Monday immediately following DST showed a 17 percent increase in traffic fatalities.
In an earlier study, Dr. Coren found that the incidence of traffic crashes rose 8 percent the Monday after the DST shift. He concluded that because drivers are already chronically sleep deprived, a small decrease in sleep duration can significantly increase crash susceptibility.
Nonetheless, Schwartz would like to see DST extended year-round to avoid these biorhythm shifts and to save lives. Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimate that extending DST year-round could save more than 100 lives nationwide each year because fewer people would be driving and walking in the dark.
Drivers usually get less sleep as they adapt to the new time. Additionally, Monday is the day when we are usually the sleepiest and most crash-prone. According to the National Road Safety Foundation, approximately 60 percent of motorists have driven while drowsy.
“My advice: get into work a half-hour later on Monday. Tell your boss Gridlock Sam wants you to arrive alive!” says Schwartz.