Did you know that Benjamin Franklin, despite what common folklore and National Treasure would have you believe, did NOT invent Daylight Saving Time? Actually, he thought the idea was a joke. The misconception comes from a satirical essay Franklin wrote to a French newspaper, proposing that Parisians could save a few francs per year on candles if they only changed their sleep schedules.

If only America had remembered Ben’s context later on. Now every year we argue about the time change. Some legislators even want to make DST permanent and forever forsake standard time. While that might make ‘ole BF cringe, it could actually save lives in New York because of a crazy statistic.

Oh, Dear

A deer in headlights
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Any hunters reading this will know that early November is mating season for deer, so they’re most active this time of year. Hunters will also know that peak times for deer to be on the move are sunrise and sunset. When DST ends, the sun sets around 4:30-5:30p, AKA when many commuters are leaving work.

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As Upstate New York drivers head home from work post-DST, they also have to adjust to less sunlight and lowered visibility. You probably see where this is going now. A new study, published in biological science journal Cell, shows a massive spike in deer-related crashes and accidents solely in the seven days after we “fall back” – 16%.

How Many Drivers Can We Save?

A car crashed into a wooden fence

The study argues for permanent DST saying lives will be saved by keeping a later sunset. 33 Americans die and 2,054 are injured in deer crashes the week after Daylight Saving Time. The New York Department of Transportation says there are 65,000 deer-vehicle collisions in state each year. The new study estimates at least 1,105 of those (the ones that take place in the post-DST week) would be prevented.

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In 2019, the Associated Press reported 40% wanted to abolish DST and keep standard time forever, 31% favored permanent DST, and 28% of people were just fine with the current system. Until we settle on a sunset solution, NYDOT gives these safety tips:

  • Use caution when driving at dawn or dusk and scan roads and roadsides ahead;
  • Reduce your speed at night and use high beams when possible
  • Slow down when approaching deer or moose standing near the roadside, as they may suddenly bolt into the road
  • Be especially alert and use caution when traveling through frequent deer or moose crossing areas, which are usually marked with “leaping stag” or moose signs
  • Motorcyclists should be especially alert for deer as motorcycle-deer collisions have a higher fatality rate
  • If a deer does run in front of your vehicle, brake firmly but do not swerve. Swerving can cause a vehicle-vehicle collision or cause the vehicle to strike a pedestrian or potentially deadly fixed object, such as a tree or utility pole.

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