Spring is quickly approaching and it is almost time to turn the clocks ahead an hour for daylight saving time (DST.) While it is nice to have more daylight in the evening, the annual time change also comes with unexpected risks.
Research shows that DST is linked to a six percent increase in car accidents during the week following the spring time change. Losing an hour of sleep impacts the body and mind much like alcohol does. It can affect coordination, reaction time, and decision-making.
With the exception of Hawaii and most of Arizona, every state in the nation observes DST. The practice was temporarily created during World War I to save energy. DST went into effect again in 1942. However, many feel DST is antiquated and that it can cause adverse effects.
How Does DST Affect the Body and Mind?
A postdoctoral fellow with the circadian and sleep epidemiology lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder compared the time change to jet lag because people tend to feel tired, groggy, and irritable during this transition. One hour may not seem like a drastic difference, but the switch to DST disrupts a person’s natural circadian rhythms and can impact health and wellness.
Losing an hour of sleep can increase stress levels and contribute to sleep disturbances, the risk of a heart attack, stroke, and workplace injury. The effects of the spring time change can last anywhere from a few days to up to two weeks.
All of these effects are serious enough, but when they impact someone operating a motor vehicle, the switch to DST can be even more hazardous.
What Are the Risks and Signs of Driver Fatigue?
A driver who does not get enough sleep or does not get quality sleep experiences symptoms similar to alcohol impairment. According to the CDC, the signs of driver fatigue include:
- Drifting out of the lane.
- Nodding off.
- Poor decision-making.
- Slow reaction time.
- Forgetting the last few miles driven.
- Tunnel vision.
Every motorist is at risk of drowsy driving, especially following the time change. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that more than 325,000 drowsy driving crashes happen every year in the United States.
You can wake up, get dressed, and head off to work without even realizing you are too groggy to drive safely. You may start yawning frequently, miss a turn or exit, or have trouble keeping your eyes open. When you notice these signs of fatigue, it is time to safely pull over, rest, and recharge before driving.
How Can I Prepare for the Spring Time Change?
Fortunately, there are steps you can take before moving the clocks ahead to minimize the effects of DST.
Start by preparing a few days ahead of the start of DST. Around a week before the time change, go to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier than usual. This gives your body time to adjust to losing that hour of sleep. It is also helpful to keep a regular schedule for eating, work, exercise, and socializing. A familiar routine will make the transition a bit easier.
As tired as you might feel after the time change, resist the urge to nap. Long daytime naps will further disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep at night. Skip caffeine and alcohol up to six hours before bed. Caffeine will keep you awake, and alcohol will prevent you from getting deep and restful sleep.
What if I am Injured in a Drowsy Driving Accident?
If you experience a drowsy driving car accident and have serious injuries, it is important to understand Virginia laws that could impact your personal injury claim.
Duty to Report the Accident
In Virginia, you must report a car accident anytime a vehicle or other property is damaged and whenever someone is injured or killed. You must provide your name, address, driver license number, and vehicle registration number to local law enforcement or the state police. If you do not comply with these obligations, you can face criminal charges.
Statute of Limitations
Car accidents can lead to costly medical and repair bills. If you are considering legal action to obtain compensation for the emotional, physical, and financial losses from a car accident, you should know Virginia imposes a time limit on how long you have to file a personal injury claim.
If someone is hurt in an accident, they have two years from the date of the crash to file a claim in Virginia’s civil court system. For auto damage or damage to other property, a person has five years to take legal action. For a fatal car accident, the deceased’s family has two years from the time of their passing to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
It is also important to understand the concept of contributory negligence if you are planning to take legal action after a serious car accident. In Virginia, the law states that if you played any part in causing the accident, you cannot receive any financial compensation. This is different from most other states that employ a legal principle called comparative negligence, where damages are awarded based on each party’s degree of fault.
As DST approaches, it is important to get ready to move the clocks ahead one hour. Remember to be extra vigilant for other motorists who may be driving while drowsy. Make sure to get plenty of rest and adjust your schedule to compensate for the lost hour of sleep.
If you do become involved in a car accident, you should contact a lawyer for assistance. It takes an experienced lawyer to build a solid case and prove drowsy driving played a part in your accident.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Represent Clients Injured by Drowsy Drivers After the Time Change
It is important to prepare for the upcoming time change. However, it is not guaranteed that other drivers will do the same. If you are dealing with injuries that were caused by a drowsy driver, our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC can help. Call us at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online to learn more and to schedule a free consultation today. Located in Virginia Beach, we proudly serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.