You wake up in a haze. Darkness surrounds you. If you’re a parent, you may need to take your kid to school as the sun comes over the horizon. You get to your workplace, whether its home or elsewhere, feeling like you need caffeine.
Its the Monday after Daylight Savings Time.
Like taxes and death, the sleepiness that follows the yearly ritual of moving the clocks forward feels like its inevitable. Studies after studies, including a 2020 one from CU Boulder, are proof of what we already know: the change increases the amount of fatal car crashes in the United States.
In Colorado, some entities are acutely aware of some of the threats posed by the time change: CDOT published an advisory in November 2022 saying “Watch for wildlife, avoid collisions during daylight saving time”.
While I am a believer in permanent standard time as a tool to fix this issue, the reality is that this is something that, whether Colorado adopts it or not, requires movement by the federal government. Instead, here are some things that could be done locally that would ameliorate some of the worst effects of traffic deaths when the clock change.
Later Start Times for Kids
In Denver, this reform is already in the midst of being implemented. for the 2023/2024 school year, Denver Public Schools will be beginning their days at 8:20 AM, or exactly an hour and 5 minutes after sunrise. Besides being a better start time for children at all stages of development, a later school time would partially keep traffic deaths from happening in the morning, which was the impetus in the mid-70’s to abandon permanent daylight savings time.
Encouraging Work From Home During the Week
Giving employees the option to work from home is one of the biggest ways to keep traffic deaths from happening. During the first full month of the COVID pandemic in April 2020, there were only 14 serious bodily injuries (SBI’s) and zero fatalities, the lowest levels since Denver started recording traffic violence for Vision Zero. Obviously, there were confounding factors around this time: COVID restrictions in Denver encouraged everyone to stay home, with essential grocery store and medical trips being the rare exceptions to the rule. Additionally, the closing of restaurant and many businesses deemed “non-essential” limited traffic to a mere fraction of what it was prior to the pandemic. That being said, work from home is a guaranteed way to get cars off the road for the morning commute to the office, and should be an evidenced based practice employed by companies.
Creating More Car Free Spaces
After the fatal shooting of a student at East High, Councilmember Hinds called on making the Esplanade in front of the school car free. While I initially saw this as somewhat incongruous with reducing gun violence, there is some data to back it up. In Portland, residents of the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood came together to permanently close down a section of street known for traffic and gun violence. The results were clear: drive by shootings and traffic violence decreased on the street. While issues in relation to gun violence are multifaceted and a holistic approach should be taken to reduce it, closing down streets is a key element of reducing traffic violence.
As the Mile High City wakes up tomorrow morning, the effects of the time switch will reach us all. It doesn’t, however, have to result in increased traffic violence. By changing elements that increase automobile usage during the week and in some ways permanently, we can reduce the worst effects of the change while still hoping and advocating for end to the time switch.
Featured Image is a Photo of Denver from 1973, the year the US experimented with Permanent Savings Time. Photographer is Unknown, and photo is taken from the 2007 Auraria Campus Master Plan