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Daylight savings time reduces wildlife-vehicle collisions

A recent study led by the University of Washington has found that the practice of moving our clocks forward – resulting in a later sunset – could reduce night-time associated car accidents with deer by 16 percent. The experts developed a model showing the major benefits that permanent daylight savings time could have, not only in saving animal lives, but also in the reduction of human injuries (and even deaths) and collision costs.

“We saw these huge, abrupt shifts in human activity associated with the timing of sunrise and sunset, so it got us thinking: if humans are responding to clock time, whereas animals are responding to the daylight time, does that then create more opportunities for human-wildlife conflict?” said study lead author Calum Cunningham, a postdoctoral research fellow in Biology at the University of Washington.

By using data from 23 state agencies from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the researchers analyzed 1,012,465 deer-vehicle collisions, together with 96 million hourly traffic observations across the entire United States. 

The analysis revealed that vehicle collisions were 14 times more frequent two hours after sunset than before, and, even more strikingly, that the rate of deer-vehicle collisions increased by 16 percent the week following the change to standard time.

Taking these numbers into account, the scientists estimated that, if daylight savings time became permanent, it could prevent at least 36,550 deer deaths, 33 human deaths, 2,054 human injuries, and $1.19 billion in collision costs each year.

“It surprised me how striking this pattern was, of how much more likely deer are to get struck in the hour or two after darkness. This one-hour shift in human activity could have such a significant effect,” Cunningham concluded.

The study is published in the journal Current Biology

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By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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