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Accident rates soar when clocks are moved forward

West Virginia residents will be setting their clocks forward by one hour on March 13 to mark the beginning of daylight saving time, and research conducted at two leading universities suggests that they may be wise to take extra care on the roads during the following few days. Medical research has found that even minor disruptions in rest patterns can profoundly influence human behavior, and car accident rates tend to increase when drivers across the country have enjoyed less sleep than they are accustomed to.

Canadian researchers linked the onset of daylight saving time with an 8 percent uptick in car accidents in 1996, and scientists at Johns Hopkins and Stanford came to the same conclusion when they conducted a similar study three years later. That study focused on fatal crashes, and the researchers found that the number of these accidents increased from an average of 78.2 on a typical Monday to 83.5 on the Monday after Americans move their clocks forward.

Lack of sleep has been linked with debilitating medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and the Johns Hopkins and Stanford researchers believe that the start of daylight saving time leaves Americans, many of whom are already not getting enough rest, dangerously fatigued. While daylight saving time cannot be avoided, the researchers say that building up residual sleep levels beforehand could mitigate its impact.

Fatigue can be difficult to establish in car accident lawsuits. Police officers are trained to identify drunk drivers, but even the most fatigued of motorists can perk up and seem quite lucid following a serious crash. When drowsy driving is suspected, experienced personal injury attorneys may have the vehicles involved in an accident inspected to rule out mechanical failure as a cause. Attorneys could also check the information stored on automobile data recorders to find out if any evasive action was taken.

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