CAUTION: Turning back the clock increases driving risks

It’s not just the clock that needs adjusting; so do your driving habits

Published: November 2, 2018, 2:35 AM
Updated: October 11, 2021, 10:04 AM

CAUTION: Time change increases risk - Pedestrians, cyclist and animals all become more difficult to see at dusk. (Ford photo)

It’s only an hour but the sudden change from Daylight Savings back to Standard Time on the morning of November 4 can dramatically change your routine driving environment and increase your risk.

That change is most evident in the late afternoon when people, used to driving home from work in at least some semblance of daylight, suddenly find themselves doing so in dusk or even dark conditions – as well as what are often the densest and most erratic traffic conditions of the day. Throw in the unpredictable and sometimes severe weather conditions of the changing season and it’s a recipe for chaos, or worse.

According to a study by insurethebox, a UK-based insurance firm, the risk of traffic crashes increases by more than a third on the ‘home time’ commute following the clock change. Specifically, data gathered throughout the nation over the period from 2014 through 2017 reveals “a 34% increase in accident rates among motorists driving between 5-8pm in the weeks directly following the clock change.”

While the UK is at a more northerly latitude than Canada's major population centres, the sunset time at the fall time change is not substantially different, and much of Canada is even further north, so the same trends are likely to apply here to some degree.

In addition to the darkness, the risk of crashing increases when road conditions are poorly lit, wet and slippery, the study concludes - typical conditions for Fall in Canada.

So what can you do to reduce your risk?

See and be seen

The first thing is to make sure you can see and be seen in the dark. That means consciously ensuring your lights – all your lights, not just daytime running lights (DLRs) – are on as soon as the daylight begins to fade, and anytime in snow, rain or fog. The big problem with DLRs is that, in vehicles built before this year, they don’t turn on your tail-lights.

Don’t rely on the ‘Auto’ setting on your lights to do it for you. In some vehicles, they tend not to activate until it is quite dark. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking all your lights are on because the DLRs shed some light on the road ahead and in many cases the instrument cluster is always lit, as well. So double-check.

In addition, be sure all your lights are working properly and keep them clean. The plastic covers over most of today's headlights can become clouded or pitted with time so it's a good idea to have them cleaned and polished.

Slow down

It’s an old axiom but it’s a valid one. Slowing down, even a little, gives you incrementally more time to assess and adjust to what are dramatically changed circumstances from what you have become used to.

Keep in mind that those circumstances may include pedestrians or cyclists who might have been conspicuous on the same commute just last week but now also are in the dark.

It’s a big change, literally overnight. For your own safety as well as that of others, treat it as such.