With our short daylight in December, it's inevitable to spend some time in the dark. And it's not just that it's dark. The dark we're dealing with during a Northwest winter comes with a cloud cloak that makes it easy to be invisible. We know how much this affects mood for some people, but what about something that affects all of us: personal safety?
Is darkness more dangerous?
When everyone is rushing between work and home and evening activities, the streets and sidewalks can be a chaotic place during a dark evening commute. It's also not a myth that there's more crime and accidents in the evening hours — most happens between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Researchers like Steve Calandrillo, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law, are working to change this by advocating for daylight saving time (DST) to be extended year-round, keeping that extra hour of light in the evening instead.
“Simply put, darkness kills — and darkness in the evening is far deadlier than darkness in the morning,” says Calandrillo. “The evening rush hour is twice as fatal as the morning for various reasons: Far more people are out and about at 5 p.m. than at 7 a.m., more alcohol is in drivers’ bloodstreams, people are hurrying to get home and more children are enjoying outdoor, unsupervised play. Fatal vehicle-on-pedestrian crashes increase threefold when the sun goes down. Moving sunlight to the evening hours can save lives."
A dark evening commute is more dangerous for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. If we could have one commute in sunshine, it would be safer for it to be the evening commute. Mornings are more predictable.
Calandrillo cites a Rutgers University meta-study, which found 343 fewer people would be killed in car-on-pedestrian and car-on-car accidents if we had year-round DST.