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Spring Time Change Tied to More Fatal Car Crashes

THURSDAY, Jan. 30, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Turning the clocks ahead one hour in the spring and losing an hour of sleep increases the risk of fatal car crashes, new research shows.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data on nearly 733,000 fatal car crashes that occurred between 1996 and 2017 in states that make the spring switch to Daylight Saving Time (DST).

The risk of fatal crashes rose nearly 6% in the week after the switch and was especially high in the morning and in locations farther west within a time zone, the investigators found.

That translates to an extra 5.7 fatal crashes per day from Monday to Friday -- or more than 28 traffic deaths during that workweek.

Over the 22 years studied, more than 626 fatal crashes might have been prevented by not switching to DST, according to the report published Jan. 30 in the journal Current Biology.

"The acute adverse effects of DST on fatal traffic accident risk are real, and can be prevented," said senior author Celine Vetter, a sleep scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

"Although the observed effects are of moderate size and are not long-lasting, we must not forget that DST transition affects billions of people every year, and thus small changes in risk can have a substantial public health impact," Vetter added in a journal news release.

Several states have considered doing away with changing clocks, and some experts say permanent Standard Time is better for health and well-being.

The yearly spring switch to DST has been linked to a number of problems, including increased risk of heart attack, workplace accidents and suicides. Evidence also suggested an increased risk of car crashes, and this new study appears to support that.

"The public health impact of the DST transition regarding fatal traffic accident risk is clear from our data," Vetter said. "Because our data only included the most severe accidents, namely where a fatality was recorded, this estimation is likely an underestimation of the true risk."

This year, DST will begin on Sunday, March 8.

More information

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more on drowsy driving.

SOURCE: Current Biology, news release, Jan. 30, 2020

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