Fall Back, Stay Safe: Navigating the Dangers of Daylight Saving Time’s End

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • Clocks will “fall back” one hour at 2 a.m. local time on Sunday, November 5, 2023.
  • Fewer hours of daylight lead to more hazards on the road in the morning and evening.
  • Pedestrians are three times more likely to be hit by a car in the days after daylight saving time ends.
  • Try to stick to your regular sleep routine to avoid extra fatigue after the time change.
Teal Alarm Clock with Fall Decorations for Daylight Savings Time

Image: CatLane, iStock

As the clocks prepare to fall back an hour, granting us the gift of an extra hour of sleep, we must recognize that our society clock and our biological clock are not always in perfect sync. While the end of daylight saving time might seem like a dream come true for night owls (like me), it comes with its own set of potential dangers and risks that we should not ignore.

The shift back to standard time (and our planet's natural lean and path around the sun) increases darkness—especially when heading out in the morning and during the evening rush hour. Both drivers and pedestrians face decreased visibility, which can lead to hazardous conditions on the road. Pedestrians, in particular, are nearly three times more likely to be hit and killed by cars after the end of daylight saving time compared to just before the time change.

Research conducted at Carnegie Mellon University revealed that the risk per mile walked for pedestrians skyrockets by 186 percent from October to November. Moreover, auto accidents also increase during this period, according to the National Road Safety Foundation (NRSF). Commuting in the dark can make drivers drowsier than usual, and the earlier onset of darkness can disrupt our internal clocks, adding to the driving risks.

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Tips to "fall back" safely

Fatigue is another significant concern during this transition. Studies suggest that it takes several days for individuals working traditional hours to fully adjust their sleep schedule after the time change. While the extra hour of sleep may seem like a welcome bonus, it can lead to physiological consequences. So, don't be surprised if you feel a bit sluggish during the first week of November.

To mitigate these risks and ensure safety during this adjustment, here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

  1. Stay alert: Be aware of the increased risk of accidents in the days following the time change. Avoid accumulating a sleep debt in the days leading up to it.
  2. Check alarms: When you set your clock back, use it as a reminder to check and replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. Test them to make sure they're working correctly—especially with the increased use of gas-fired furnaces and fireplaces during colder months.
  3. Prepare an emergency kit: Put together a winter emergency kit for your car. This kit should include warm clothes, a blanket, a flashlight, batteries, water, non-perishable snacks, a shovel, flares, reflective hazard triangles, jumper cables, cat litter or sand for traction, a ski hat, and gloves.
  4. Inspect fire extinguishers: Check if your fire extinguishers need recharging. Ensure they are in proper working condition.

How to manage other side effects of "falling back"

While most people associate the hazards of daylight saving time with spring, the fall transition is not without its challenges. The disruption to our internal clocks, coupled with shorter days, can have various impacts on our health and well-being. It's crucial to take proactive steps to mitigate these effects.

Remember, "falling back" can lead to a more significant sleep debt and, consequently, health risks such as type 2 diabetes, depression, mood swings, mental illness, stroke, and asthma attacks. And don't forget that alcohol and caffeine—common sleep disrupters—can play a role in poor diet choices during this time (I mean, we just had Halloween, people!).

From a workplace perspective, the sudden shift can result in increased mistakes and distractions among employees due to disrupted sleep schedules. Fatigue can significantly affect safety, quality, and productivity.

Here are some tips to help employees overcome the adverse effects of the time change:

  • Maintain your sleep schedule: Go to bed at your usual time on Saturday night and wake up at your normal time, adjusting for the time change. Keep your schedule as consistent as possible on Sunday evening as well.
  • Keep perspective: Resist the temptation to overindulge (party for one "bonus" hour) or stay up really late because you have an "extra" hour.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine: Refrain from alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime. It's also smart to reduce exposure to blue light before bedtime, which can negatively impact sleep quality.

As we fall back into standard time, let's pay attention to the safety risks and health impacts associated with this seemingly minor adjustment. By staying vigilant and taking proactive measures, we can ensure a smoother transition and a safer, healthier season for all.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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