Springing ahead and falling back have disrupted established sleep patterns for decades.
Switching between standard time and daylight saving time first occurred in the United States in 1918. Its goal was to preserve as much daylight as possible during working hours.
This practice forces us to lose an hour of sleep in the spring and gain one in the fall. Most people adjust to the modest time change pretty quickly.
But it takes longer for others. Tom Langen, a scholar at Clarkson University in Potsdam, believes this factor contributes to accidents involving motorists and deer.
“When the time shifts from daylight saving time to standard time on Nov. 7, one Clarkson University professor has discovered one more thing to lose sleep over — the number of car crashes with deer go up around the time of the change. Tom A. Langen, a professor of biology at Clarkson, published a paper in the Journal of Environmental Management in August. The paper, ‘Effect of Daylight Saving Time clock shifts on white-tailed deer/vehicle collision rates,’ states that, ‘Daylight saving time (DST) 1-h clock-shifts around the spring and fall equinoxes at temperate zone latitudes are associated with increased vehicle accidents, attributed to driver error caused by disrupted sleep patterns and changes in visibility during peak driving times.’ Mr. Langen also published [an] article on the topic in [The] Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization that publishes articles written by academic experts,” according to a story published Sept. 27 by the Watertown Daily Times. “Mr. Langen’s primary research is about the environmental impacts of roads and how to reduce them, which includes mortality rates on small mammals and reptiles. A graduate student of Mr. Langen’s from Spain, Victor Colino-Rabanal, was interested in looking at patterns comparing Europe and North America regarding animal/vehicle collisions. Mr. Langen, Mr. Colino-Rabanal and another graduate student, Nimanthi Abeyrathna, analyzed more than 86,000 deer-vehicle collisions involving white-tailed deer in New York state using police records over a three-year period, 2005-2007.”
Deer can be plentiful along roadsides throughout the four-county GLOW region so Langen’s research is beneficial for local drivers. While more vehicular accidents take place at dusk, most collisions with deer occur during a full moon, Langen wrote. Deer move farther away from cover during full moons, especially new moons.
According to Langen’s piece in The Conversation: “Over a year, by far the highest numbers of deer/vehicle accidents are in autumn, and particularly during the rut, when bucks search and compete to mate with does. In New York state, the peak number of deer/vehicle accidents occurs in the last week of October and first weeks of November. There are [more than] four times as many deer/vehicle accidents during that period than during spring. Moose/vehicle accidents show a similar pattern. That high-risk period is also when daylight saving time ends — it happens on Nov. 7, 2021, in the [United States]. Shifting the clock one hour back means more commuters are on the road during the high-risk dusk hours. The result is more cars driving at the peak time of day and during the peak time of the year for deer/vehicle accidents. Overall, given that most U.S. states and more than 70 countries have seasonal ‘daylight saving’ clock shifts, elevated ungulate-vehicle accident rates caused by clock shift may be a widespread problem.”
Disrupted sleep patterns, diminished daylight and hormone-driven deer can create problems for motorists, Langen wrote.
As we approach the time to once again change our clocks, let’s be more mindful of these risks on the road and find ways to reduce potential accidents.