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No More Switching Clocks Could Impact Safety of Drivers

Last month, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight saving time permanent beginning 2023. If passed by the House and signed by President Biden, it means Americans will no longer need to switch clocks in the spring and the fall. While we would have more daylight hours to spend outside after work and school, there are downfalls which could impact the safety of drivers and the overall health of Americans.

Permanent daylight saving time means there will be more light when driving home from work, but it also means there will be many dark, cold mornings. The drive to work in the morning will be dark from November to March - 120 days of dark winter mornings. The lack of light in the morning could impact the safety of drivers going to work, children walking to school and pedestrians walking the streets in the dark.

Depending on which part of the country you live in, the sun won’t rise until 8 o'clock in the morning and close to 9 o'clock in the morning in the west coast in December. Just about all parts of the country will experience later sunsets but places on the western edge of a time zone will have fewer mornings of  sunshine.

The months of December, January and February will always have less daylight, no matter what, but health experts claim having more dark mornings and evenings with more sunlight disrupts the timing of the human body’s biological rhythm, causing negative impacts on health and safety. Having more morning sunlight is essential to mental and physical health. Save Standard Time, a non-profit group advocating for permanent standard time, refers to studies that indicate late sunrise in the morning affects life expectancy rates, cancer mortality rates are higher, and winter depression rates are higher.

The U.S. tried permanent daylight saving time in 1974, but the public was not happy. It was squashed after several children died in accidents during the winter months because they were going to school in the dark.

Regardless of how the debate ends, here are tips to keep yourself and others on the road around you safe when driving in the dark.

  • Get enough rest. Never drive while overtired. Pull over if you feel drowsy or sense your reaction time is impaired.
  • Make sure all your car lights are clean and in good working condition.
  • Drive slowly to compensate for limited visibility.
  • Approach all crosswalks and intersections slowly.
  • Check for oncoming cyclists or pedestrians before making any turns.
  • Be aware of warning signs of drowsy driving such as yawning, heavy eyelids, drifting into another lane.

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