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Sticking with daylight saving time would sharply reduce deer-vehicle collisions, study shows

Deer in the road
Wyoming Game and Fish

News brief

The switch between daylight saving and standard time is jarring for humans and deadly for deer.

A new study out of the University of Washington shows that permanent daylight saving time would “sharply reduce” deer-vehicle collisions because evening commutes would be brighter.

Researchers studied about a million of these accidents, finding that drivers are 14 times more likely to hit a deer in the two hours after sunset than before it. They estimate that adopting permanent daylight saving could prevent 33 human deaths and 36,550 deer deaths while saving more than $1 billion annually.

Laura Prugh, an associate professor of quantitative wildlife sciences at the University of Washington, co-authored the study, which was published Nov. 2 in the journal Current Biology. She says the fall time change also coincides with mating season, when deer are more active and distracted.

“Instead of the evening rush hour happening in the daylight, where we can see deer a lot better and avoid hitting them, we suddenly switch it to being in the dark,” Prugh said. “Whereas if we stayed on daylight saving time, that would put rush hour in the daylight for the majority of the country through the entire deer breeding season.”

Accidents increased by 16 percent in the week after the end of daylight saving time compared to the week before the time change, the study shows.

“It just really highlights how risky it is to drive in the dark in the fall,” Prugh said.

The study included data from Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, and in those states the number of deer-vehicle collisions would be reduced by about between 2.5 and 5% under permanent daylight saving, the researchers estimate.

Prugh added that the eastern sides of time zones may benefit more from a permanent time change.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.