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Spring Ahead: Safety Tips for Daylight Saving Driving

Well, we’re coming up on my least favourite day of the year. The day the clocks “spring forward” – this year it’s Sunday, March 14 – and go back on Daylight Saving Time, except for you lucky ducks in Saskatchewan and the Yukon. The Monday after the time switch usually finds me a little cranky and disoriented.

Sleepy Woman in Car

And it’s not just me. Losing that hour of sleep can mess with the human body, which can in turn make driving the day after "springing forward" a dicey situation. In fact, according to a study done at McMaster University entitled "Sleep Deficit, Fatal Accidents and the Spring Shift to Daylight Savings Time", traffic accidents increased by 17% on the Monday after Daylight Savings Time (compared to an average Monday).

Disrupting our circadian rhythms can lead to slower reflexes and impaired decision-making ability - not great when you’re driving a vehicle. And although fewer folks are commuting these days, here are a few tips to help you stay alert after DST this weekend.

  • Go to bed early all weekend. Start going to bed early on the Friday and Saturday before Daylight Savings Time kicks in - it will help your body adjust sooner.
  • Acknowledge that your body is out of whack and take a little extra time for activities. If you’re getting into the car, take a moment to really focus on the route you're about to take.
  • Cut down on in-car distractions. Consider leaving the music off and if you're a coffee drinker, enjoy that java before you leave the house or after you get to work - no sipping on the road!
  • Keep it cool. If it's warm in the car, you'll feel cozy…and drowsy. Keeping the car cooler will help you stay alert. Turn down the heat or open the window for a little fresh air.
  • If you’re driving to work, pay attention both to and from work. You might think that the most accidents happen in the morning following the time change but in fact, the majority of them happen on the afternoon commute home, when your lack of sleep may really be catching up with you. Take a moment before leaving work to relax and focus on that drive home.
  • Bring the right eyewear. You may have been heading home in twilight for the last few weeks. With the time change, the day will still be bright. Make sure to have your sunglasses on hand, particularly if you're driving west.

Apparently it can take as long as two weeks for our bodies to adjust to the change in time - so be sure to keep tabs on your fatigue and avoid driving when sleepy.

Do you have any post-Daylight Savings Time "getting back to normal" rituals? Share them in the comments! And be safe out there on Monday!

~Kate T.

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