Maryland residents experienced the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) over the weekend.
While gaining an extra hour by turning back the clocks can be welcome, it can also result in more accidents. According to a recent article in The Southern Maryland Chronicle, darker drives home could lead to more collisions. Indeed, the Mid-Atlantic AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety insists that all roadway users could be at greater risk of injury.
First, more drivers could be facing disrupted sleeping patterns. In turn, disrupted sleeping patterns could lead to a drowsy driving crash. Even though motorists in effect gain an hour when DST ends, sleep cycles can still be affected in problematic ways. More pressing, however, is the lack of daylight during rush hour. To be sure, the end of DST means that more motorists will drive home in the dark. In Maryland, gaining an hour when DST ends means the winter commute will be darker. While the evening rush hour often remains light during DST, autumn and winter days have fewer daylight hours.
Accordingly, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists are more difficult for motorists to see. In addition, motorists tend to be less alert when it is dark and more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.
During nighttime hours, motorists also have a slower reaction time. All of these changes frequently lead to more serious car accidents at the end of Daylight Saving Time. Many of those crashes result in life-threatening injuries. According to a spokesperson for AAA Mid Atlantic, motorist collisions with pedestrians spike significantly at the end of DST. In 2018, the Maryland and D.C. metro area had, on average, 288 pedestrian accidents each month from October through December.
According to Maryland car accident lawyer Christine Murphy, darker commuting hours are not an excuse for a serious crash.
As she emphasized, “Maryland motorists must understand their obligations to other drivers on the road and should take appropriate precautions.” Murphy underscored that, “even when it is difficult to see a pedestrian or motorist, drivers must adjust to their conditions.” If a motorist behaves in a manner that is unreasonable for nighttime driving, that motorist can be liable for injuries.
Car accidents involving pedestrians can be particularly severe given that pedestrians do not have the protections of a vehicle occupant. Drivers in Maryland need to understand the accident risks that come with the end of DST and make appropriate adjustments.