An old looking clock that is setting up a log with leaves around it.
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How the Fall Time Change Affects Your Driving (& What You Can Do About It)

Navigating the Hazards of the Fall Time Change

As the crisp autumn air settles in and the leaves begin to change colors, Canadians prepare for the annual ritual of turning back the clocks to end daylight saving time for the fall time change. While this transition brings with it the promise of an extra hour of sleep, it also comes with some unintended consequences for drivers on Canadian roads. In this blog post, we’ll delve into Canadian statistics to shed light on how the fall time change can affect your driving.

Increased Risk of Accidents

According to data from Transport Canada and various provincial transportation departments, the fall time change is associated with an increased risk of accidents on Canadian roads. On average, there is a 20% increase in traffic accidents in the week immediately following the fall time change compared to the previous week. In the days following the time change, there is a noticeable uptick in the number of collisions, particularly during the evening commute. 

Reduced Visibility

One of the most significant factors contributing to the spike in accidents is reduced visibility during the evening hours. In the weeks following the fall time change, there is a 30% increase in accidents that occur between 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM, coinciding with the onset of darkness. As the days grow shorter, many Canadians find themselves driving home from work or school in darkness, which can lead to a higher likelihood of accidents. 

Fatigue-Related Accidents

Driver fatigue is a significant and often underestimated factor that profoundly affects driving. While the extra hour of sleep might seem like a bonus, it can disrupt our internal body clocks and lead to increased fatigue among drivers. Fatigue-related accidents increase by approximately 15% in the days following the fall time change.

When a driver is fatigued, their ability to operate a vehicle safely is compromised in several critical ways. Fatigue can impair a driver’s concentration, slowing down their reaction times to unexpected events on the road. It also diminishes decision-making skills, making it harder to assess risks and make split-second judgments. Furthermore, tired drivers may experience microsleeps, brief periods of unconsciousness lasting just a few seconds, during which they are completely unaware of their surroundings. All of these factors increase the likelihood of accidents on the road, highlighting the importance of well-rested and alert drivers for safe travel.

Man riding a bike on the side of a road with bright fall leaves behind him.
There is a 25% increase in pedestrian accidents in the week following the time change.

Pedestrian Safety Concerns

The fall time change not only affects drivers but also poses safety concerns for pedestrians. In the week following the time change, there is a 25% increase in pedestrian accidents, with the majority occurring during the evening hours. With darkness falling earlier in the day, pedestrians, especially children and the elderly, become less visible to drivers. 

Adjusting to Changing Conditions

Drivers need time to adjust to the changing driving conditions brought on by the fall time change. In the week following the fall time change, there is a 10% increase in accidents caused by inadequate lighting on vehicles. Many vehicles still have their headlights turned off during the early evening hours, assuming it’s not yet dark. This can result in unexpected hazards on the road. 

Tips for Safe Driving During the Fall Time Change

To mitigate the risks associated with the fall time change, drivers are encouraged to:

Adjust Your Driving Habits:

    • Reduce Speed: With reduced visibility during the evening hours, it’s crucial to slow down and give yourself more time to react to unexpected situations. Reduce your speed and increase your following distance from the vehicle in front of you.
    • Use Low Beams: Use your vehicle’s low-beam headlights, even if you think it’s not completely dark. This will not only help you see better but also make your vehicle more visible to others.

 Check Your Vehicle’s Lighting:

    • Inspect and Clean Lights: Regularly inspect and clean your vehicle’s headlights, taillights, and turn signals. Dirty or foggy lenses can significantly reduce the effectiveness of your lights.
    • Ensure Proper Alignment: Ensure that your headlights are properly aligned to provide the best illumination on the road ahead.
Woman sleeping in bed.
Plan ahead by going to bed a little earlier in the days leading up to the time change to ensure you're well-rested for the road.

Make Sure To Get Adequate Sleep:

  • Plan Ahead: Knowing that the fall time change can disrupt your sleep patterns, plan ahead by going to bed a little earlier in the days leading up to the time change. Ensure you’re well-rested when you hit the road.

Be Mindful of Pedestrians and Cyclists:

  • Scan Roadside Areas: Pay close attention to the sides of the road where pedestrians and cyclists may be less visible. Slow down in residential areas and near crosswalks.
  • Look for Reflective Gear: Pedestrians and cyclists can greatly enhance their visibility by wearing reflective clothing and accessories. Encourage others to do so and watch for these reflective materials on the road.

Avoid Distractions:

  • Put Away Electronic Devices: Avoid using your phone or other electronic devices while driving. Distractions can be even more dangerous during the transition period when visibility is reduced.
  • Stay Focused: Keep your attention on the road, and avoid engaging in distracting conversations or fiddling with the radio or GPS.

Maintain Vehicle Safety:

  • Check Tire Tread: Ensure your vehicle’s tires have adequate tread depth for wet and slippery road conditions. Bald tires can lead to loss of control.
  • Brake Maintenance: Have your brakes inspected regularly to ensure they are in good working condition, especially as wet and icy conditions become more common in the fall.

Stay Informed:

  • Weather Updates: Keep an eye on weather forecasts, especially if you live in areas prone to early winter storms. Be prepared for sudden changes in road conditions.
  • Traffic Reports: Stay informed about traffic conditions through local news or apps, and consider adjusting your route if necessary to avoid congested or accident-prone areas.

Use Fog Lights (When Applicable):

  • Foggy Conditions: In areas prone to fog, use your vehicle’s fog lights when appropriate. These lights are designed to cut through fog and improve visibility.

Take Breaks on Long Journeys:

  • Rest Stops: If you’re embarking on a long journey during the fall time change, plan for regular rest stops to combat fatigue. Stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and stay hydrated.
A picture of a vehicle's emergency kit.
Always have an emergency kit in your vehicle.

Emergency Kit:

  • Carry Essentials: Always have an emergency kit in your vehicle. It should include items like blankets, a flashlight, flares, a first aid kit, and non-perishable snacks in case you get stuck in adverse conditions.

While the fall time change offers the gift of an extra hour of sleep and signals the arrival of cozy evenings by the fireplace, it also presents challenges for Canadian drivers. The statistics indicate that this seasonal transition leads to an increase in accidents, reduced visibility, and heightened safety concerns for both drivers and pedestrians. By following these tips and maintaining a heightened sense of awareness during the fall time change, you can help ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road. Remember that a little extra caution can go a long way in preventing accidents during this seasonal transition.

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