Despite the hassles of switching from standard time to summer time affecting our sleep habits – spring forward, back, everything in between – there are more serious consequences for the semiannual transition: a new study says the change in now contributes to 37,000 vehicle collisions with deer on US roads.
The report, published this week in the magazine Current biologystates that year-round daylight saving time would reduce the time when evening rush hour traffic occurs in darkness each year, preventing 33 human deaths, 2,000 injuries and saving approximately $ 1.2 billion in costs for repairs resulting from accidents.
“The numbers are surprisingly large,” said Laura Prugh, associate professor of wildlife sciences at the University of Washington and author of the study. “It is barely apparent that a seemingly simple change – not turning the clock back in the fall, not turning back – would lead to such a marked reduction in collisions across the country.”
“If you drive two hours after sunset, you are 14 times more likely to hit a deer than if you drive before sunset,” said Calum Cunningham, postdoctoral researcher at UW and co-author of the study.
Switching to permanent standard time, meanwhile, would cost another 66 human lives per year and $ 2 billion in damage from an additional 74,000 collisions.
To understand the effect of seasonal time changes, the researchers collected wildlife and vehicle collision data from more than 1 million crashes in 23 states to estimate impacts. Deer are most active on both sides of sunrise and sunset, and data showed that drivers are much more likely to hit deer when the evening commute is done in the dark.
About 2.1 million deer-to-vehicle collisions occur annually in the United States, causing economic losses of more than $ 10 billion, with 59,000 human injuries and 440 deaths.
Washington is one of 19 states where legislatures have passed permanent daylight saving time, but require congressional action to enforce it. In March, the Senate took over, unanimously voting in favor of the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make DST permanent all year round for all states except Hawaii and most of Arizona. Those two states would continue to observe solar time all year round. But the bill has stalled in the House.
Until the House takes action, we are stuck with the current system, so take note that clocks nationwide “go back” an hour at 2am this next Sunday morning, November 6th.