Looking forward to falling back: safe driving tips as daylight saving time ends

Daylight saving time ends on Sunday, Nov. 6 at 2 a.m. Remember to turn your clocks back an hour before going to bed. However, those living in Yukon and certain areas of Saskatchewan, B.C., and Quebec remain on standard time.

The end of daylight saving time in the fall is a time of year that many people look forward to; after all, an extra hour of sleep is a hard thing to dislike. However, this one-hour change may have some negative effects when it comes to road safety.

It’s easy to assume that with an additional hour of sleep, drivers will be more alert, but various studies claim the opposite. When our sleeping schedules are interrupted, it can affect our health and make us more prone to accidents. While there is evidence of a 7% increase in fatalities during the first week after the time change, a study by Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. also found an increase in the number of pedestrians killed by vehicles weeks after the autumn time switch.

Driving in the dark can be hazardous

During the spring and summer months, people generally return home while the roads and highways are brighter, and hazards are easier to see. When drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians have spent the past eight months commuting in a well-lit setting, it may be hard to adjust to less light and poor weather conditions.

As the clocks change and we head toward winter, follow these tips to reduce your likelihood of an accident:

  • Stick to your regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time you normally would, so you can benefit from that extra hour of sleep.
  • Do some light exercises in the morning to wake your body up.
  • Enjoy your morning cup of coffee but don’t over-caffeinate. Hydrate with water or juice and have a healthy breakfast.
  • Before you pull out of the driveway, clean your headlights, brake, and signal lights.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get where you want to go.
  • Approach all crosswalks, intersections, and transit stops with caution as it will be harder to see pedestrians and cyclists who may also be drowsy.
  • Heed the speed limits, drive defensively, and drive according to the weather conditions.
  • Maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles so you’re prepared to react in any situation.
  • Adjust your rearview mirror to lower glare while driving at night.

Preparing your vehicle

With winter around the corner, it's also a good idea to take care of your vehicle's maintenance and be prepared for the upcoming change in weather:

  • Top up on winter windshield wiper fluid and replace your wiper blades. Wiper blades should be replaced every six months.
  • Replenish your car safety kit with winter items like blankets and heat packets. If you don’t have one already, you can buy or make your own car kit.
  • Take your car in for a tune-up and oil change before the winter weather hits.
  • Get winter tires. Winter tires provide your car with more traction and handle freezing temperatures better than all-season tires; they help you keep control of the car and stop effectively. Additionally, many car insurance companies offer a discount for using winter tires, which will help you save on your premium and stay safe on winter roads at the same time.

Rolling back the clock may sound like a great opportunity to stay up later. However, the time change can impact the quality of your sleep and affect your body’s internal clock. Whether you’re walking, cycling, or driving, take advantage of the extra hour, sleep well, and be alert on the road as the days get shorter.

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