Extra caution required for standard time

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More hours of darkness mean more caution driving, riding and walking. Photo: Ray Hudson

By Ray Hudson

More hours of darkness mean more caution driving, riding and walking. Photo: Ray Hudson
More hours of darkness mean more caution driving, riding and walking. Photo: Ray Hudson

It happens every year but every year people are unprepared for the move back to standard time from the Daylight time they’ve enjoyed since last March.  We’re in the season when it’s more likely dark when you go to work or school and dark when you are coming home.  Add to this the rain that is generally falling for most of the next three or four months and it’s a recipe for trouble for the unprepared.

The negative effects of moving the clocks forward in the spring are much better known, but the move back in the autumn presents hazards that need to be heeded as well.

Be visible – be aware

Drivers, bicyclists (there are a few that ride all year) and pedestrians, need to understand that visibility drops dramatically in the dark, but throw in a rainstorm and it can become life threatening.  And it’s just as much, if not more, the responsibility of the walkers and bike riders to be extra cautious and highly visible while navigating the roads as their ability to move and avoid problems dramatically exceeds that of vehicles.  Yet, it’s unbelievable the number of people who think that dark clothes with nothing reflective are perfectly alright to wear on the street.  It’s even more unreal to watch people oblivious to their surroundings because of iPads with earphones crossing, or completely hidden behind a black umbrella while rushing across, King George Blvd or Marine Way.

Fatal pedestrian strikes increase

A 2007 study at Carnegie Mellon University found that pedestrians during rush hour were more than three times more likely to be fatally struck by cars for the first few weeks following the turn-back of the clocks in the fall. They found it’s all about visibility for the drivers primarily as they take a while to adjust driving patterns to accommodate for the darkness.

Heart healthy autumn

There is one bright spot in all of this darkness.  A 2008 study conducted in Sweden and published in the new England Journal of Medicine found that although there is a seven per cent increase in heart attacks in the first three days after the clocks go forward in the spring, a similar decrease in heart attacks occurs during the fall return to standard time.

So, cheer up.  You only have four months to go before we turn the clocks back again on March 13 (it’s a Sunday).