Daylight Savings Time
Suddenly, it's dark. That's the second sensation we get in late afternoon on the day Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends. The first sensation seems more pleasurable -- an extra hour in bed!
But it's the sudden early darkness that hits us after our clocks fall back -- on Sunday, November 5 this year. On that day, sunset in Southern California will be a few minutes before 5pm. And, of course, darkness comes earlier and earlier throughout November and most of December.
As well as adjusting to the shock, the clock change signals new safety risks -- 5pm is one of the busiest times on our roads. It's also a good time to carry out home safety checks.
Cut the Risks
With that in mind, here are 5 important things you can do to reduce the hazards, not just of darker evenings but also hidden dangers in our homes. It's simply a good time to turn your thinking to safety on the road and around the home.
- Check and/or replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Even in Southern California, you're going to be putting your furnace or space heaters to use, increasing the risk of fire or gas poisoning.
To be absolutely safe, it makes sense to put new batteries into older fire alarms, even if the current battery is working well. With newer, high-tech systems, this may not be necessary, but check for guidance in your user manual (or find it online). Even if the batteries don’t need replacing, you should run the tests recommended by the manufacturers.
And if your fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are more than 10 years old, replace them.
It's also a good idea to replace light bulbs in important places while you have your stepladders out! Fire safety is critical, so have a professional check and service your heating systems too!
- Allow extra time and be extra cautious when you're driving in the early evening. This is especially important in the early days of the switch back to standard time. Many people don’t realize that darkness actually affects our brains. Most of our reaction time is governed by what we can see. Darkness makes us less alert and strains our eyes.
This is such a big issue that the week of November 5 to 12 is actually Drowsy Driving Week. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60% of adult drivers admit to driving while feeling sleepy. Don’t be one of them!
And if you have trouble with night vision, speak to your eye doctor or, if you can, avoid driving in the dark altogether.
Here's an extra point you might not think about: Even if you're driving while it's still light, the sun will be lower an hour earlier than normal, adding to the risk of being dazzled when you drive.
- Check your cars' lights. Make sure not just that all of them are working but also that your headlight beams are properly adjusted. Clean them regularly (including reflectors) and be sure you know the rules about when to use high and low beams. Low beams are effective below 350 feet, high beams above that -- but remember to dip back from high to low when another car approaches of when you're driving behind someone.
- If you're a bicyclist or motorcyclist, wear high-visibility clothing and, again, ensure you have good, working lights front and back. If you need to dismount in traffic, get off the road and into safety. Your risk of being involved in an accident is heightened, so always wear approved headgear.
Even as a driver, it's a good idea to keep a high-vis vest in your car in case you're involved in an emergency and have to get out of the vehicle onto the highway -- for instance to change a tire.
- If you're out walking, carry a flashlight and attach fluorescent strips to clothing and items you're carrying.
And talk to your kids about night-time safety. They may be safely home before darkness descends, but most children these days are involved in after-school activities from gym to extra studies.
Again, ensure they wear high-vis clothing, with reflective strips on shoes and backpacks.
Make them aware of the risks of encountering unprepared drivers, by not walking too close to the curb and by being extra cautious when crossing streets -- and even then, only to do so at intersections or marked crossings.
You and Your Body Clock
By the way, about that extra hour in bed that you get in the morning: It may seem like a luxury, but sleep experts say it likely won’t do you any good at all.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but, in fact, the clock change may upset your body clock and affect both your concentration and your digestive system.
Daytime light is what ultimately affects and controls our body clocks, so once you wake up at what would be your normal time, it's a good idea to get up, rather than sleep in.
Eating well and exercising also plays an important part in keeping that body clock ticking over properly.
And if you feel more tired earlier in the evening then why not simply go to bed and get your extra sleep in then? Your body will eventually adjust over a couple of weeks to the new time routine.
One More Thing
There's one other important thing to consider in addition to road and home safety, as we move into the more risky times of darker nights and cooler times -- your home insurance and your car insurance.
Most crashes happen in winter darkness and so do more home fires. So, as well as following our five recommendations above, take the time to check that you're properly insured against the risk of accidents.
If you're not sure if you're properly insured, or you keep meaning to get around to taking out auto insurance or home insurance protection, please speak to the experts at Aldrich Taylor or find further information on this website -- and we'll get you covered.