Focus
October 10, 2019

Staying safe when daylight saving time ends

When daylight saving time (DST) ends on Nov. 3, most people will relish the one precious hour of sleep they gain. But once they realize how early it gets dark, their euphoria comes to an abrupt end. Indeed, up to 98% of Coloradans say they would prefer more light at night.

Unfortunately, the problem extends beyond losing time for exercise or other leisure activities during daylight hours. More accidents occur in the dark, so it can be dangerous — both at home and at work — if you're not careful.

To keep yourself and your employees safe as the clocks fall back, consider incorporating the following three recommendations into a five-minute safety talk or workplace safety poster.

1. Drive with extra caution

After the clock turns back an hour, you might find that your late afternoon delivery or your evening commute is a lot darker than it was mere days ago. In these conditions, you are likely to encounter busy streets that, in low-light conditions, are more hazardous than usual.

If that's the case, it's important to take extra precautions to protect yourself and those around you. So, watch for cyclists commuting home from work, people enjoying a twilight jog or run, and kids wandering home from after-school activities.

While you should always practice safe driving behaviors, the end of daylight saving time is a great time to redouble your efforts to watch your speed, use your turn signals, yield to pedestrians and cyclists, and always refrain from texting while driving. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) even recommends making eye contact with pedestrians, so both parties are aware of one another.

2. Be a safer pedestrian or cyclist

Whether you're walking to your next meeting, or walking your pet, if you're on two feet — or two wheels — you need to use a double dose of common sense at this time of year.

"You do see a big jump in pedestrian fatalities and injuries in the evenings in the fall, when the change back to standard time makes the evenings suddenly darker," Michael Flannagan, an associate research professor at the University of Michigan, told the New York Times.

While drivers should watch for you, pedestrians have responsibilities too. Make yourself more visible by following these tips from CDOT:

  • Wear light-colored clothing and walk in well-lit areas, whenever possible. For additional protection, wear reflective clothing and carry a flashlight.
  • Use intersections that have traffic lights and pedestrian signals. Follow the signals carefully.
  • Look "left-right-left" and over your shoulder before stepping off the curb.
  • To remain alert to potential danger, stow your cellphone away and keep your attention on the road.
  • Follow the law: Bicycles must have a front light and back reflector in low-light conditions.

If you don't have access to a safe, illuminated area to work out, consider moving your outdoor exercise to daylight hours, such as before work or during your lunch break.

3. Pay attention to your sleep cycles

Any disruption to your sleep cycle — even the seemingly minor one-hour change that marks the end of daylight saving time — can leave you at risk of being fatigued. Timothy Morgenthaler, co-director of the Mayo Clinic's Center for Sleep Medicine, has reviewed 100 medical papers related to how time changes affect health. While sharing his findings with USA Today, he emphasized that gaining or losing an hour of sleep affects sleep patterns for about five to seven days.

As you know, when there's fatigue, there's potential for injury and a loss of productivity. The best way to counteract any disruption is to adhere to good sleep routines. The University of Colorado Boulder offers the following tips for improved sleep, which are applicable all year but especially as we head into or out of DST:

  • Avoid caffeine after midday, since it can stay in your system for up to eight hours.
  • While exercise can promote sleep, try to finish your workout three hours before you head to bed.
  • Avoid using devices right before bed: "The blue light emitted by your phone and computer can interrupt your body's natural ability to produce melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep," the article published by the university cautions. And, of course, let's not overlook the fact that emails, social media, or news sites often amp us up.
  • Develop a calming routine that might include light stretching, a meditation app, or a shower.
  • Create a conducive sleep environment that's cool, dark, and quiet.

Earlier darkness can catch us off guard if we are not accustomed to it, but paying extra attention can ensure we head into winter safely.

For more safety advice, visit our Safety Resources page.

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