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Switch to standard time increases car-pedestrian accident risk

Fall can be a dangerous time for pedestrians, as dusk becomes part of rush hour. The end of daylight savings time moves sundown right into the commute, meaning that drivers are forced to adjust to less ambient light and more light from headlights and streetlights. The difference in light changes the appearance of things. It changes the shadows. Small moving objects like pedestrians seem to disappear.

Unfortunately, rush hour is already risky for pedestrians

"Every day, we see at least one or two people who require surgery after being hit by a vehicle, with everything from bone fractures to serious head and internal organ injuries. In my experience, rush hour tends to be the peak time for these types of auto-pedestrian injuries," says a trauma surgeon at Cedars-Sinai hospital.

A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that 75 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2016 took place after sunset.

It is not just sunset that creates the risk, however. Part of the problem is the abruptness of the change in time. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the number of motor vehicle accidents occurring between 5 and 6 p.m. nearly doubles after daylight savings time ends.

This is likely because drivers' sleep cycles are also interrupted by daylight savings time, so their attention, concentration and decision-making are impacted. In fact, missing one to two hours of sleep nearly doubles a driver's risk of a crash.

The end of daylight savings time therefore creates ideal conditions for fatigue-related crashes.

Drowsy driving is a factor in over 20 percent of fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep-deprived drivers are responsible or over 6,400 fatalities and 50,000 serious injuries each year.

No driver wants to hit a pedestrian, and being aware of changing circumstances and the risk they create is crucial to safe driving. Here are some tips from AAA Mid-Atlantic for dealing with the switch to standard time:

  • Slow down.
  • Keep your headlights clean, along with both the inside and outside of your windows and windshield.
  • Turn on your headlights during both early morning and early evening hours for visibility.
  • Do not use your high beams when pedestrians or other cars are around.
  • Always yield to pedestrians in crosswalks -- and don't pass other vehicles that have stopped for a crosswalk.

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