Year-round daylight saving time could save the lives of tens of thousands of deer and dozens of people.
People pay a high price for the end of daylight saving time.
The transition to standard time in autumn is associated with a 16 percent increase in deer-vehicle collisions in the United States, according to a study published November 2 in Current Biology. According to the researchers, removing the switch could save nearly 37,000 deer — and 33 human lives.
In a typical year, there are over 2 million deer-vehicle collisions, accounting for about 7% of all vehicle crashes. Wildlife biologist Laura Prugh and colleagues compiled data from 23 states that tracked whether a crash involved an animal and what time the crash occurred to see how much the biannual time change affected those numbers. The team compared those figures to traffic volumes in each state between 2013 and 2019, focusing on the weeks preceding and following the transitions to daylight saving time in the spring and back to standard time in the fall.
Springing forward had little effect, but nearly 10% of yearly deer collisions occurred around the autumn fallback — when the majority of human traffic shifted to after dark. The issue was particularly acute on the East Coast. "In the fall, you see a really steep spike," says Prugh of the University of Washington in Seattle. "There is an increase in the western states as well, but it is not nearly as sharp." On the East Coast, the autumn change coincides with white-tailed deer mating season. Not only are there more drivers after dark, but there are also more deer. "The timing couldn't be more inconvenient."
Eliminating the clock change would not completely eliminate the increase in crashes; the mating season is important regardless of what time sunset occurs. However, scientists estimate that extending daylight saving time throughout the year would reduce total deer-human collisions by about 2%, saving dozens of people, thousands of human injuries, and tens of thousands of deer. It's yet another reason for all of us to turn toward the light (SN: 3/31/14).
C. Cunningham and colleagues Deer-vehicle collisions would be reduced if daylight saving time was implemented permanently. Biology Today. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.10.007. Published online November 2, 2022.