Driving tests

Changing the clocks causes driving dangers

When the clocks go forward or back the change in daylight hours and the disruption to sleep can cause problems for drivers. Daylight saving begins on the last Sunday of September and ends on the first Sunday in April. If you’re a learner driver, take extra care because not only could your driving be compromised, but other drivers’ too.

Some insurance companies report up to an 11% increase in car insurance claims immediately after the clocks go back. Several factors affect this.

  • Hours of sleep: assuming you go to bed at the same time as usual, you’ll actually get an extra hour of sleep in autumn, but only if you can stay asleep. If not, you’ll be getting up an hour early. Also, the extra hour only benefits your Saturday night sleep because, when it comes to Sunday night, you’ll now want to go to bed an hour earlier than usual and if you push through that to stay awake it can affect your sleeping patterns. Tired drivers make more mistakes.
  • Darkness hours: it gets darker earlier. People that would have been driving home in daylight now have to get use to driving home in darkness or dusk. More of a gradual change is better. This change is not good for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Changing seasons: autumn brings cooler, more rainy weather, and rain is the panelbeaters’ best friend.
  • Sun strike/sun dazzle: as the sun starts to get lower on the horizon, sun strike becomes worse. Make sure to keep your windscreen clean and keep a pair of sunglasses in the car. Motorcyclists can put a strip of dark tape (e.g. electrical tape) across the top of their visor to reduce the sun strike. Tinted visors are not good for riding at dusk.

Whether you believe that daylight saving hours should be abolished or not, the fact remains that we go through these changes twice a year and it can cause a disruption to your schedule and body clock. The easiest way to remember which way the clocks go is:

Spring forward, fall back.

Tips for driving after the clocks change for winter

If the sun is blinding you, slow down and increase your following distance. You need to be able to stop in the distance of clear road you can see ahead of you.

If you can’t avoid the sun, you can always pull over until it moves out of the way.

Drivers heading west in the evening rush hour will now find themselves driving towards the setting sun. See if you can adjust your work time for a few weeks so you either leave earlier or later. Of course, this depends on your work times.

Ensure you fill your washer bottle regularly as you’re windscreen will get dirty with spray and splashes on from wet roads.

Tips for driving after the clocks change for summer

It’s basically the same as winter, but is more likely to be in the morning than the evening. You’re more likely to experience sun strike heading east in rush hour in the morning.

You will lose an hour’s sleep when the clocks go forward so try adjusting your body clock as soon as possible to avoid being tired.

Keep your washer bottle filled because you’re more likely to get dust on your windscreen which will diffract the sunlight making it difficult to see.

driver training

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Advice, Car, Heavy Vehicle, Motorbike
When was the last time you checked your Road Code knowledge?

Try some tests for free!

Road Code car quiz

Road Code motorbike quiz

Road Code heavy vehicle quiz