Q: Is there any way to know whether this area sees more traffic accidents after we switch times? With the commute now in the dark after 4:30 p.m., I’ve encountered traffic-stopping accidents on state Route 16. Every single night.
A: This question comes from one of our very own reporters, who commutes over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge each day to get to work (Bless her heart. I get annoyed when it takes me 10 minutes instead of the usual eight to get to work).
To try to answer this question, Sgt. James Prouty with the Washington State Patrol kindly pulled some quick statistics from the last few years. From those brief stats, it’s hard to tell if there is a correlation between traffic accidents in October, which is typically before we fall back for daylight saving time, and November, after we switch.
Here are the numbers of traffic accidents the Washington State Patrol has investigated around the daylight saving time switch the last few years:
October 2015: 4,388
November 2015: 4,671
October 2016: 4,976
November 2016: 4,669
October 2017: 4,638
November 2017: 5,163
While 2015 and 2017 look pretty promising for our thesis, it’s difficult to draw conclusions, Prouty said. It would take a deep dive into those statistics to see how many occurred after the sun went down during the shortened days of late fall and winter. And Daylight Saving Time is not something that’s generally recognized among patrol officers as one of those events that leads to more car crashes, Prouty said.
But wintertime is.
“You’re looking at October, which is fall, then you move into November, which is closer to winter. What were seasons like during that time?” he said. “I think people have brought this up a few times, but it’s hard to tell … we typically expect to investigate more collisions during wintertime with inclement weather, so it’s a really hard comparison.
“Typically during winter we have ice on the roadways, snow on the roadways, which presents more of a hazard than clear, dry roads.”
As of Thursday, Washington State Patrol officers had stopped 13,413 cars for left-lane camping in 2017.
Left lane campers use the left lane of the state’s highways for long periods without passing people. State law requires drivers to stay in the right lane in multi-lane highways except when passing.
In 2016, the State Patrol stopped more than 16,400 drivers for camping in the left lane.