About 1.5 million deer-related accidents happen annually, resulting in more than $1 billion in annual insured losses. These accidents also cause about 175-200 fatalities and 10,000 injuries annually. It is predicted that drivers would hit and kill around 40,000 fewer deer each year if the United States (U.S.) decided to make daylight saving time permanent or year-round. Daylight savings time is when parts of the world set their clocks ahead by one hour, causing the sunlight to shift to later in the day.
A recently published study predicts that, if we’re allowed to keep daylight saving time-year round, we would be able to reduce the amount of time that rush-hour traffic takes place during darkness. This would prevent 33 deaths, and 2,000 injuries, and save about $1.2 billion in collision costs. This specific study focuses on how subtle changes in human behavior can have such significant impacts on animal behavior and life.
In March, the U.S. Senate approved a bipartisan bill, the Sunshine Protection Act, that would make daylight savings time standard for all states excluding Arizona and Hawaii. However, the house later did not choose to advance the Sunshine Protection Act. Deers are active both dusk and dawn, and data has shown that drivers are far more likely to hit a deer when it’s darker. “If you drive two hours after dark, you’re 14 times more likely to hit a deer than if you drive before dark,” said Calum Cunningham, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington and an author of the study. Data also able to show that deer accidents spiked during the fall. “The bottom-line message is that it’s a big number,” Tom Langen a professor of biology at Clarkson University said. “It’s likely correct that the time shift, and particularly the shift from daylight saving time to standard time in the fall, results in some human deaths and a lot of accidents that would not happen.”
But a change to permanent standard time would worsen deer-vehicle collisions significantly, the model from the study predicts, causing nearly 74,000 more crashes, 66 human deaths, and more than 4,100 human injuries. Daylight savings time becoming permanent could be super beneficial but it also may not be. The decision on what is best is a hard one to make.