As most of the United States prepares to fall back from daylight saving time on Sunday, a new study claims year-round daylight would save nearly 37,000 deer that would otherwise die every year in traffic collisions.
The University of Washington study, published Wednesday in the journal Current Biology, estimates permanent daylight saving time would also save dozens of people involved in deer collisions, by reducing the amount of rush hour traffic when it is dark.
Researchers estimate permanent daylight saving time would prevent 33 human deaths and 2,054 injuries, while saving $1.2 billion in deer collision costs because “skies would be brighter later into the evening.”
“Wildlife-vehicle collisions are a huge and growing problem,” Calum Cunningham, University of Washington researcher, said in a statement. “These are social costs — people killed and injured — and it’s also a conservation problem as it’s one of the largest sources of human-caused mortality of wildlife.”
In March, the U.S. Senate approved a bipartisan bill that would make daylight saving time standard for all states except Arizona and Hawaii. The House did not advance the Sunshine Protection Act.
Every year, there are an estimated 2.1 million deer-vehicle collisions in the United States that kill about 440 people, cause 59,000 injuries and cost upwards of $10 billion, according to the study.
Researchers said deer-collision numbers would drop if human activity is reduced during deer activity. The study found deer collisions were “14 times more frequent two hours after sunset than two hours before sunset.” It also found deer collisions spike in the fall when most states switch to standard time and deer activity increases during their mating season.
“We believe that this fall spike happens due to the overlap of these two factors: the breeding season and the change from daylight saving time back to standard time,” Laura Prugh, an associate professor of quantitative wildlife sciences at the University of Washington, said in a statement.
Researchers argue avoiding a biannual time shifts would prevent human jet lag caused by out-of-sync circadian rhythms.
“Humans today have this ‘evening bias’ in our activity: we get up later and stay active later than what the sun is telling us to do,” said Cunningham. “As long as people are living their lives ‘by the clock,’ which animals do not, people need to be aware of risks and make adjustments where we can,” he said.
“If people are thinking about what they can do for wildlife and for their own lives, reducing driving during dark hours is likely to help significantly.”