Data finds crashes increase as daylight grows shorter


CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – According to recent data analysis, shorter daylight hours increases the risk of crashes for both drivers and pedestrians.

According to crash data analyzed by AAA, in the days after the time change there is a marked increase in crashes nationwide. Fatal pedestrian crashes across the U. S. in the 5 p.m. hour increased from an average of 2.3 a week to 17.9. Fatal car crashes increased during the same time period, from 26.2 per week to 45.3.

From 2016 to 2020 in Massachusetts there was a 53% increase in crashes during the 5 p.m. hour in the four weeks following the time change as compared to the four weeks prior, jumping from an average of 27 a day to 42. For pedestrians, the chance of being struck by a car increased 274% over the same period.

The possible reasons for the increase in accidents include drowsy driving and adjusting to driving in the dark. AAA recommends that drivers:

  • Should not rely on their bodies to provide warning signs for drowsiness and should instead prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep before hitting the road.
  • Travel at times of the day when they are normally awake.
  • Avoid heavy foods.
  • Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment.

To adjust to darker conditions, AAA recommends that drivers make sure their vehicle is in good repair with an emphasis on their headlights, which can show signs of deterioration even after three years. Check for yellowing, clouding and other changes in appearance. Replacement and restoration services are available at most repair shops, including AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.

Additionally, AAA recommends drivers:

  • Compensate for reduced visibility by decreasing your speed and increasing following distance to four or more seconds behind the car in front of you.
  • Older drivers should recognize that at age 60 it takes three times more light to see the roadway than it did at age 20, and if possible plan driving times accordingly.
  • Keep your eyes moving. Do not focus on the middle of the area illuminated by your headlights. Watch for sudden flashes of light at hilltops, around curves, or at intersections, because these may indicate the presence of oncoming vehicles.
  • Look at the sides of objects. In the dim light, focus on the edges or outlines of objects. Your eyes can pick up images more sharply this way than by looking directly at the object.
  • Avoid being blinded by oncoming high beams. If the driver of an oncoming vehicle fails to dim the lights, look down toward the right side of the road. You should be able to see the edge of the lane or the white-painted edge line and stay on course until the vehicle passes.

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