Be Aware of Daylight Saving Time Dangers

Edited by Admin
Be Aware of Daylight Saving Time Dangers

Daylight Saving Time Dangers

Each year when Ontarians move their clocks back on the first Sunday of November and forward on the second Sunday of March, there are calls for abolishing this practice. This year the topic of switching from Daylight Saving Time (DST) to Standard Time has been particularly hotly debated, and some jurisdictions, including  the Yukon, have opted to ditch the switch. Saskatchewan did so long ago, and BC seems poised to follow suit soon. Some government analysts, medical professionals, and politicians are urging the rest of Canada to ditch the switch once and for all. Canada was a leader in adopting Daylight Saving measures – on July 1, 1908, residents of Port Arthur, Ontario (now Thunder Bay,) turned their clocks forward by one hour to start the world's first DST period. It would not become widespread until a decade later, when countries all over the world began adopting the practice. A century ago, shifting the time forward in the spring made more sense: it allowed people to use less artificial light, which led to energy savings. However, modern society uses air conditioners, computers, televisions, washer/dryers, and many other energy-devouring devices, so the amount of energy saved from DST is negligible. In fact, it’s now been proven that switching the time costs money, both in lost worker productivity after the spring transition, and in safety campaigns that must be implemented each year.


Why Is DST Unsafe?

Safety campaigns regarding November’s “fall back” time change are launched by most jurisdictions that observe DST, because it has a number of proven impacts on health and safety. That day precedes an annual spike in collisions between motor vehicles and cyclists and pedestrians; during the 30 days following the change to Standard Time, personal injury accidents between 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm rise by an average of 19% in Ontario. There are a number of reasons for this steep increase in accidents. The commute home from work will suddenly take place in darkness, meaning reduced visibility for everyone on the road, and rain, common in November, can reduce visibility even more. This year, Toronto’s Vision Zero initiative is placing blunt advertisements in public places that say: “More people get hit by cars when the clocks turn back.” Likewise, “springing forward” in March, which deprives people of an hour of sleep, is associated with an increase in motor vehicle accidents. One US study found that there’s a 6% increase in traffic fatalities during the week following “spring forward.” This interruption to people’s circadian rhythms also contributes to a 5.7% increase in workplace injuries due to fatigue and inattention. A 2019 survey by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) found that more than half of Americans feel tired after DST begins in the spring. That organization recommends that “seasonal time changes should be abolished in favor of a fixed, national, year-round standard time.”


Health problems are also associated with DST. Springing ahead in March has been shown to increase the risk of having a heart attack by 25%, according to the New England Journal of Medicine and a University of Colorado study. Research conducted with patients undergoing in vitro fertilization found that miscarriage rates were “significantly higher” immediately following the spring time change. Another study links Daylight Saving Time’s “spring forward” to a greater incidence of mental illness and an increase in suicide. This effect also happens in fall, when losing an hour of afternoon daylight after setting the clocks back to standard time can trigger depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.


In addition to these serious problems, there are also annoyances for people in many professions. Farmers, for example, cannot explain Daylight Saving Time to their livestock. Dairy cows expect to be milked at the same time each day, and all animals get used to a regular feeding time – as you will know if your dog or cat struggles with the time change.


Adjusting Safely

Someday Ontario may join the jurisdictions that eschew DST, but until then, there are a few things you and your family can do that will help you to adjust safely.


In the spring:

  • Begin preparing everyone in your household by going to bed slightly earlier each day during the week before the time change, and getting up slightly earlier. This will allow you to adjust gradually;
  • Have breakfast when you first get up; it will help to start your day right;
  • Walk outdoors in the sun; sunshine and exercise will help your body to adjust;
  • Don’t take long naps;
  • Don’t use screens for at least an hour before bedtime; and
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.


In the fall:

  • If you are a “vulnerable” road user, such as a cyclist or pedestrian, be sure to wear light-coloured clothing and use reflectors;
  • If you’re a driver, pay extra attention to the road during this period; and
  • Leave the office earlier, or suggest that hours be adjusted to compensate for the time change.


Stay safe any time! Know the dangers, and take steps to protect yourself and those around you.