When daylight savings time ends, it takes a few weeks for us to adjust to darker conditions earlier in the evening. After enjoying long hours of daylight in the spring and summer, we are suddenly faced with darkness before 5 p.m. And “falling back” has been shown to have serious implications on traffic safety in the evening hours.
A 2007 study by professors Paul Fischbeck and David Gerard of Carnegie Mellon University found that pedestrians walking during the evening are nearly three times more likely to be stuck and killed by cars in the weeks after the time change.
Their study of pedestrian fatalities from 1999-2005 shows that there is an average of 37 more U.S. pedestrian deaths around 6 p.m. in November compared to October. That amounts to an increase of 186 percent.
The study found that it is not the darkness itself that leads to the increase in incidents but the adjustment to earlier nighttime. Pedestrian fatalities decline with each passing month as we adapt to the darker conditions.
While it’s always important to expect pedestrians when driving, be extra careful now as we adjust to the earlier onset of nighttime.