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I’ve read that accidents go up when daylight savings time starts in the spring, but what about in November, when it ends? – Ramit, Toronto

Your chances of hitting a pedestrian spring forward in the fall, but it’s probably not simply because the clocks go back.

“We see an increase in pedestrian collisions related in the months from November to March,” said Sgt, Jason Kraft with Toronto Police Traffic Services. “It’s not only at the time change – we’re also seeing it in the month prior to that.”

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In Toronto, collisions between cars and pedestrians typically go up, on average, around 30 per cent in the fall.

“There’s a number of factors,” Kraft said. “One is the reduced number of daylight hours and another is road conditions.”

There has been some research showing that crash fatalities go up the first Monday of daylight saving time (DST) in March – possibly because drivers are sleep-deprived after losing an hour of sleep.

But there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of an immediate spike when the clocks go back an hour in November.

Instead, there’s an increase throughout the fall.

A 2001 study looking at 22 years of U.S. crash data found a slight increase in crashes the Sunday night of the fall time change but not on the Monday after, compared to the same days the week before and the week after.

Researchers speculated that the fall increase – about 10 per cent – was caused by drunk drivers who had an extra hour to drink.

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Transport Canada doesn’t have specific data on crashes around the time changes.

“From my experience, this time of year, there’s certainly an increase in collisions with pedestrians,” said Acting Sgt. Andrew Parkins with Calgary police’s traffic team. “That’s predominately when they’re in dark clothing and crossing at uncontrolled crosswalks or where there aren’t street lights.”

The most crashes with pedestrians happen in late afternoon – between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. – and in the morning between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

“That’s when kids are going to and from school,” Parkins said. “We’ve had quite a few collisions when the sun is going down or coming up and it’s difficult to see.”

Slow down, watch out

So far this year, 15 pedestrians have died on Toronto’s roads. Nearly 70 per cent of them were 55 or older.

With it getting darker earlier, the biggest threats to pedestrians are aggressive driving, distracted driving and speeding, Kraft said.

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“Our advice is always going to be directed at motorists – there’s a greater onus on the motorist because they’re operating a two-ton vehicle,” Kraft said. “Drive within the speed limit, expect the unexpected and use caution.”

Drivers should be checking blind spots regularly for cars, cyclists and pedestrians, said the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).

“The weather is still quite nice in certain parts of the country, so expect more activity on the roads and sidewalks,” said Kristine D’Arbelles, CAA spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “As a driver, we can do our part by being extra vigilant by watching for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Plus, drivers need to make sure their headlights are on.

“We see drivers with their daytime running lights on who might not realize that their headlights are off,” Calgary’s Parkins said. “If you have automatic headlights, make sure they’re on – there have been cases where people take their vehicles in to be serviced and they turn the headlights on.”

In Toronto, for instance, nearly half of collisions between cars and pedestrians happen in the middle of the block, away from crosswalks.

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If you’re a pedestrian crossing the street, don’t assume that cars can see you, Parkins said.

“Before you step on the road, ensure you see some sort of reaction so you know they’re slowing down and stopping,” Parkins said.

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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