When people ponder the safety implications of winter weather, Florida doesn’t tend to register as a location of concern. After all, Florida stays relatively hot and humid even when other states end up buried in snow. The weather is so warm and pleasant during the winter that thousands of snowbirds flock to Florida each year to enjoy winter in this warmer region.
Florida may not often have to deal with snow or ice accumulation on the roads. However, certain aspects of winter weather affect the Sunshine State as much as they do the northern parts of the country. While snow, ice and sleet are unlikely to affect motorist safety in Florida, the changing light levels that occur during the fall and winter certainly can.
How do the earlier sunset and later sunrise during the winter months potentially affect motorist safety in Florida?
Less light means more visibility issues
A large percentage of significant collisions, including cyclist and pedestrian crashes, occur because of visibility issues. Often, these crashes occur at night or during transitional times when the sun rises or sets. Once the sun sets, people depend on the illumination provided by street lights and headlights, which may not be enough to safely monitor the roads. There will be more crashes that occur due to visibility issues during the winter months because it stays darker for longer.
Changing light levels affect biometric rhythms
Longer periods of darkness overnight and transitional times that may overlap with people’s commute to or from work can contribute toward the likelihood of a major collision. Changing light levels can actually affect the brain.
One of the reasons that crash rates may increase during the fall, winter and early spring in Florida is that the human body may adjust its internal rhythms to follow the sunrise and sunset. They want to sleep when it is dark, and an earlier sunset may mean they experience a significant slump in their energy levels. People may be more likely to experience fatigue in the afternoon when heading home from work, which can negatively affect their ability to focus and drive safely.
Learning more about how changing light levels affect driver safety can make a big difference during the darker and cooler parts of the year for those who are concerned about staying safe while traveling by road and who are willing to adjust their habits to reflect the needs of any given moment.