According to a B.C. based road safety program, the ‘spring forward’ time change can increase crash risk for drivers on roads across the province. Road Safety at Work (RSAW), a WorkSafeBC funded initiative managed by the Justice Institute of BC, is reminding Merritt drivers to be mindful of their ‘body clocks’ as their wall clocks move forward.
“The switch to daylight saving time could lead to more fatigued drivers— and more risk of crashes—on Thompson-Nicola roads as body clocks take time to catch up with alarm clocks,” says Trace Acres, RSW program director.
“The time change on March 12, 2023 can disrupt circadian rhythms, the process that regulates our sleeping cycle. It can cause some people to lose sleep for several days. The resulting fatigue affects their ability to safely drive. Fatigue is a type of impairment that reduces mental and physical performance. Research shows it’s a contributing factor in about 20 percent of crashes.”
Researchers have cited a six percent increase in fatal vehicle collisions in the U.S. through the first five work days of daylight savings time.
“Our study provides additional, rigorous evidence that the switch to daylight saving time in spring leads to negative health and safety impacts,” said Celine Vetter, visiting assistant professor of integrative physiology at Boulder’s University of Colorado.
“These effects on fatal traffic accidents are real, and these deaths can be prevented.”
Acres says that fatigued drivers are more likely to take risks and forget or ignore normal checks or procedures. They’re less able to judge distance, speed, and time. They’re also less able to absorb critical driving information and respond to it.
“Reacting a fraction of a second faster or slower can be the difference between a near miss and a serious, costly crash,” Acres says.
He adds that fact rings especially true at this time of year, when snowy and icy roads make driving hazardous.
For the thousands of people who drive for work in the Thompson-Nicola region, fatigue adds to the challenge. Whether they drive full time, part time, or occasionally – such as to pick up supplies or call on a client – driving may be the most dangerous thing they do on the job. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of traumatic work-related fatalities in BC.
Acers says that since vehicles used for work in BC are deemed workplaces, employers are responsible for the safety of any employee who drives on the job. Employees who are too fatigued to drive safely have a legal responsibility to refuse unsafe work.
B.C. had 576,923 vehicles insured for business use at the end of 2021, according to ICBC. In addition, vehicles insured for pleasure use can be used for business up to six days per month.
“Fatigue can affect all drivers regardless of age, skill level, or experience,” says Acres.
“Whether you drive for several hours each day or just a few minutes, there is plenty you can do to improve your own safety and help make sure you’re not involved in a crash because of fatigue.”
RSW recommends the following tips for drivers to get enough sleep during the time change:
- Go to bed early in the days immediately before and after the time change, aiming for 7 to 8 hours each night.
- Keep your energy levels up by eating good meals and healthy snacks.
- Don’t leave driving until the end of the day when you’re bound to be tired.
- Avoid distractions by putting away your phone.
- Follow your employer’s instructions for controlling the fatigue risks and only drive when necessary, using alternatives such as virtual meetings, to eliminate the need to get behind the wheel.