Get in rhythm with the time change

On Sunday, Americans set their clocks back one hour in an annual ritual known as fall back, not to be confused with its spring counterpart, spring forward. If you forgot about the time change and arrived one hour early to work on Monday, you’re probably not alone.

Unfortunately, it would take an act of Congress – literally – to change the system.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 dictates that Americans move the clocks forward one hour on the second Sunday in March (Daylight Saving Time) and one hour back on the first Sunday in November (Standard Time).

Besides messing with our morning commute, the return to Standard Time increases the risk of traffic accidents. That’s because the sun rises and sets earlier, which affects the body’s natural sleep cycle, known in scientific circles as the circadian rhythm. It also means more light on the way to work and less light on the drive home.

Maybe Congress will eventually see the light and legislate out all this falling back and springing forward. In the meantime, follow these tips to stay safe behind the wheel and on foot.

Sleep well: Our bodies need several days to adjust after the time change. Don’t exacerbate the problem by building a sleep deficit. Get seven to nine hours of qualify sleep each night.

Maintain your vehicle: Adequate, quality sleep prepares your body to fall back one hour. You should prepare your vehicle for the time change, as well. Make sure all your lights work properly, check your mirrors for cracks, and clean streaks from your windshield to offset glare. Don’t forget to make sure your headlights are aimed correctly by shining them on a wall about 25 feet away. If one light is higher than the other, adjust the aim.

Control glare: Counter the effects of daytime glare by wearing anti-reflective sunglasses, but remember to remove them at dusk. You can reduce nighttime glare from headlights by using the night setting on your rearview mirror.

Scan the road: Scanning the road at night helps your eyes adjust to the dark. It also keeps you more alert and ready to respond to unforeseen incidents, such as people and animals crossing the road. The Insurance Council of Texas (ICT) notes that Texas leads the nation in deaths from deer collisions. The ICT advises motorists to use extra caution in November, when deer-related crashes traditionally spike.

Walk this way: Pedestrians are nearly three times more likely to be killed by cars in the days following the end of Daylight Saving Time, according to a Carnegie Mellon University study. If you’re walking around at dawn or dusk, wear brightly colored or reflective gear. Always use crosswalks, look both ways before crossing, face oncoming traffic and use sidewalks when possible.

Keep a close eye on children: More children are hit by cars near schools than at any other location, according to the National Safe Routes to School program. Drivers should protect kids by slowing down and avoiding distractions in school zones, as well as near buses and playgrounds. Parents should make sure children use the curbside door away from traffic when entering or exiting a vehicle.

Get more information

Visit the National Safety Council for more information about how the time change compromises driver safety. For other fall back safety tips, visit the American Society of Safety Engineers.



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