Tips to (again!) Avoid A Daylight Saving Death!

We’ve had the deflating news that Daylight Saving Time (where we lose an oh-so-painful hour of sleep) doesn’t even save energy – in fact it may even increase energy usage. Looks like the savings in energy due to decreased light usage is more than offset by the increase in energy used for air conditioning. Sigh. But here’s the most important message to keep in mind as we continue to collectively enact this seasonal madness: Daylight Saving Time has been shown over and over in research studies to cause, each year, a definite, measurable (and significant) increase in the number of deaths. When you think about the misery and futility of Daylight Saving Time, the fact that you could actually die because of it seems just so…so wrong. So why do people die because of Daylight Saving Time? And what can you do, personally, to avoid being involved in a Daylight Saving Death?

Over nine hundred Americans, from the years 1987-1991, are estimated to have died purely because of Daylight Saving Time (DST). Another study, using 1997-8 data, estimated that abolishing Daylight Saving Time would save 171 American pedestrians per year (13% of all pedestrian fatalities in the 5:00-10.00 a.m. and in the 4:00-9:00 p.m. time periods) as well as 195 Americans killed in car collisions per year (3%, during the same time periods). To make matters even more stark, moving DST to an earlier, darker date (March instead of April), as we are this year, is likely to make those numbers go up. Daylight Saving deaths are predominantly due to pedestrians getting killed by cars. People are driving after a smaller chunk of sleep, probably stressed and running late, and, importantly, drivers are not yet accustomed to watching for pedestrians in the dark. Pedestrians are groggy, late, and probably not used to looking out for cars in the dark. Maybe some of the cars even forgot to turn on their headlights. Children, in particular, are vulnerable to Daylight Saving Death–one study showed that, in a small area of northeast England, one child every two years dies because of Daylight Saving Time.

What can you do? First, even if we drive, we’ll all be getting out of a car to walk at some point, so these pedestrian tips apply to everyone:

1) Hold that toddler hand tight as you head to daycare Monday. Keep a hand on a backpack strap as you walk your kid to school. Warn older kids of the danger.

2) Wear light, bright clothes–nobody gets to be goth the Monday after DST.

3) Cross the road in the middle of a pack (if you can).

4) Be alert–when it comes to pedestrian vs. vehicle face-offs, the only important law is the law of physics. Watch out for the sleepy, stressed out, no headlights death car!

Tips for drivers, to help avoid pedestrians and other cars:

5) Consider getting up even (know it’s painful) earlier. Get a real cup of coffee under your belt if you drink coffee. Leave yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going, even with pick ups and drop offs. If there was ever a time to drive defensively, this is it. Leave plenty of space between you and the next car, stay within the speed limit and channel your inner zen.

6) Pretend you’re watching out for large, sluggish, humped shapes in the dark that can suddenly dart in front of you. Get your best video-game reflexes tuned up to make sure you’re not caught by surprise.

7) Make sure your visibility is the best it can be. This weekend is a great time to really wash that front windshield. Put both the visors up. Made sure your headlights are clear of grime (and turned on!). Consider getting your kids to ride shotgun and help you watch for pedestrians–they love a chance to take charge and shout out information.

8) Hey, if you have the option, next week is the perfect time to take public transport! Just watch out for cars when you’re walking.

For everyone–

Start now and use some easy cognitive behavioral therapy tips (proven to be every bit as effective as sleeping pills!) to try to get some extra rest on Sunday night:

1) No caffeine of any kind (no chocolate, tea, coffee, decaffeinated drinks–which still have caffeine) after noon.

2) No alcohol with dinner or later. While alcohol may make you feel “drowsy” in the short run, it actually impairs your natural sleep cycles.

3) No TV, no computer, no “screen” of any kind three or more hours before bed–crack open that great book you never seem to have the time to read!

4) Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool. If you still can’t get to sleep after 45 minutes or so, get up and do something restful (NO TV, no computer, no “screen” of any kind). Rest peacefully until you feel a wave of sleepiness coming and surf that wave back to bed.

Hope to see you all–each and every one of you–after we make the DST shift.

P.S. Extra credit (we recovering premeds believe in extra credit the way some people believe in the Giants: life-changing, powerful, unfortunately erratic). Save even more lives by changing your smoke detector batteries this Daylight Saving Time!

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