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Time change can increase crash risk for PG drivers

The switch to Daylight Savings Time could lead to more fatigued drivers – and more risk of crashes — on Prince George roads as body clocks take time to catch up with alarm clocks.

The time change on March 12 can disrupt circadian rhythms, the process that regulates our sleeping cycle. It can cause some people to lose sleep for several days. The resulting fatigue affects their ability to safely drive.

“Fatigue is a type of impairment that reduces mental and physical performance,” says Trace Acres, program director for Road Safety at Work. “Research shows it’s a contributing factor in about 20% of crashes.”

Researchers have cited a 6% increase in fatal vehicle collisions in the U.S. through the first five work days of Daylight Savings Time.

Fatigued drivers are more likely to take risks and forget or ignore normal checks or procedures. They’re less able to judge distance, speed, and time. They’re also less able to absorb critical driving information and respond to it.

“Reacting a fraction of a second faster or slower can be the difference between a near miss and a serious, costly crash,” Acres says.

That’s especially true at this time of year, when snowy and icy roads make driving hazardous.

For the thousands of people who drive for work in Prince George, fatigue adds to the challenge. Whether they drive full time, part time, or occasionally – such as to pick up supplies or call on a client – driving may be the most dangerous thing they do on the job. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of traumatic work-related fatalities in BC.

Since vehicles used for work in BC are deemed workplaces, employers are responsible for the safety of any employee who drives on the job. Employees who are too fatigued to drive safely have a legal responsibility to refuse unsafe work.

B.C. had 576,923 vehicles insured for business use at the end of 2021, according to ICBC. In addition, vehicles insured for pleasure use can be used for business up to 6 days per month.

“Fatigue can affect all drivers regardless of age, skill level, or experience,” says Acres. “Whether you drive for several hours each day or just a few minutes, there is plenty you can do to improve your own safety and help make sure you’re not involved in a crash because of fatigue.”

Road Safety at Work recommends drivers:

  • Get enough sleep during the time change by going to bed early in the days immediately before and after the time change. Aim for 7 to 8 hours each night.
  • Keep your energy levels up by eating good meals and healthy snacks.
  • Don’t leave driving until the end of the day when you’re bound to be tired.
  • Avoid distractions by putting away your phone.

For work drivers, these additional tips apply:

  • Follow your employer’s instructions for controlling the fatigue risks.
  • Only drive when necessary, using alternatives such as virtual meetings, to eliminate the need to get behind the wheel.
  • Know before you go by planning trips using DriveBC.ca for road and weather reports.

For more safe driving tips visit RoadSafetyAtWork.ca.

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