09.01.2022 | Basic Science • Original Article
We live and die by the sun: motor vehicle fatalities and circadian timing in the USA 2001 to 2018
Rodolfo Soca, Charles Mounts, Lacie Hediger, Carla York
Sleep and Breathing
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Motor vehicle accidents continue to be one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality across the world. The distribution of accidents during the 24-h period exhibits a known pattern which includes three well-defined peaks during day, with circadian factors exerting significant influence. Time zones standardize time for large geographic areas and create misalignment between the natural position of the sun, or “solar” time, and the time imposed by the time zone, or “social” time. The light/dark cycle that is created by the sun is the main zeitgeber of the circadian system and it is unknown if this affects the pattern of accidents that is observed in different areas of a given time zone (Easter portion vs Western portion).
We analyzed public data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System from 2001 to 2018 to compare the pattern of accidents from Eastern portions of the time zone to those from the Western portions.
The accident curves on both sides of the time zones were shifted, or out of phase, showing a shift of approximately 45 min between accident patterns.
This shift in patterns suggests that solar time, rather than clock time, is the most important factor in the pattern of accidents.