Does daylight saving bring more traffic crashes?

Studies differ, but either way it’s good to be mindful of drowsy driving.

Daylight saving time starts at 2 a.m. Sunday. There’s talk about whether this leads to an increase in traffic crashes — losing that hour of sleep can throw more than your kid’s scheduled nap times off-kilter.

You commuters can do your own personal study Monday morning.

Actual studies differ on whether the phenomenon is true or not.

A study of Canadian traffic data in 1991 and 1992 found an increase in traffic crashes the Monday after the spring shift (when an hour is lost) and a corresponding decrease the Monday after the fall shift (when an extra hour is gained).

California drivers in the mid-1970s definitely had trouble with the time changes, no matter the season.

By contrast, a 2010 study in Minnesota found daylight saving time, overall, had a positive effect by providing more daylight during heavy traffic times in the six years it examined.

A 2007 study that looked at 28 years worth of U.S. crash data decided there was no significant detrimental effects in the short-term — and significant benefits in the long-run.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the daylight saving-observing world, Sweden and Finland found no effects.

(If you weren’t already struggling to keep your eyelids open, chances are decent you are now, reading all this…)

Either way, it’s a good time for a reminder to be mindful of drowsy driving.

A lack of sleep can mimic more well-known forms of impaired driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration a couple years ago expanded its definition of impaired driving to include not only drunk, drugged and distracted, but also drowsy driving.

Driver alertness, attention, reaction time, judgment and decision-making are effected by lack of sleep. Drowsy drivers are twice as likely to make performance errors as drivers who aren’t fatigued, according to the group.

Safety and health groups alike urge drivers to prioritize a good night’s sleep. When you can’t, don’t rely on a loud radio or rolled-down window — pull over and change drivers or take a cat nap.

Have a question or topic? Send it to streetsmarts@heraldnet.com.

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