Pedestrians 3 times more likely to be killed when clocks change, study says

Saturday, November 03, 2007
By Dan Majors, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two Carnegie Mellon University scientists are warning people that there’s much more to daylight-saving time than just setting your clocks back an hour tonight.

You need to get your mind right.

Professors Paul Fischbeck and David Gerard have made a study of traffic fatalities that shows pedestrians walking during the evening rush hour are nearly three times more likely to be struck and killed by cars in the weeks after the fall time change.

The problem, they suspect, is that pedestrians and drivers have gotten used to more than six months of visibility during those hours and are slow to adapt to the danger of the darkness.

“The change that’s going to occur on Sunday is going to have some pronounced effects on your risks of walking between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.,” Dr. Gerard said last night. “Basically, these are the hours when it’s just getting dark. Next week at this time, it will be pitch black. But people walking and people driving won’t have adjusted. The baseline risk for getting killed is almost tripled.”

Their study of pedestrian fatalities from 1999-2005 shows that there is an average of 37 more U.S. pedestrian deaths around 6 p.m. in November compared to October. That amounts to an increase of 186 percent.

No such jump was seen for drivers or passengers in cars.

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