Would keeping British Summer Time hours improve road safety?

Would keeping British Summer Time hours improve road safety 2265

Many of us had to fiddle around with our alarm clocks and wrist watches last Saturday as the clocks went back one hour to mark the end of British Summer Time (BST).

The change has meant that daylight light filters through bedroom windows earlier in the morning but it has also resulted in many workers, school children and road users having to journey home in darkness for the first time in months.

It is the road-safety implications of this fact which has resulted in growing public and political support for the idea that Britain’s clocks should be moved forward by an hour all-year round. 

This idea could start with Britain’s clocks remaining unchanged one autumn, followed by:

•Clocks in winter being set to GMT plus one hour (the setting currently called BST)

•Summer clocks going to GMT plus two hours (BST plus one)

The Daylight Saving Bill, which backs the idea, is currently being considered by the House of Commons.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) believes that 80 lives and 200 serious injuries could be avoided on the UK’s roads each year if the extra hour of early-evening daylight was retained.

While no win no fee solicitors can help people who have suffered a road accident through no fault of their own make a personal injury claim, could the need for many compensation claims be avoided if British Summertime Hours were retained in the winter?

David Williams, CEO of road safety association GEM Motoring Assist, thinks so. Mr Williams acknowledges that keeping the clocks the same would probably result in a slight increase in the number of morning road deaths and accidents, as was the case between 1968 and 1971 when the idea was trialled. 

But he points out that this would be offset by a significantly greater reduction in the number of early evening road deaths and injuries.

This, Mr Williams says, is because people are more alert in the mornings and more capable of adjusting to dark conditions than they are in the evening when they are tired after long school or working days.

Mr Williams said: “An extra hour of daylight at the end of each day would be the most cost-effective road safety measure the government could introduce. It wouldn’t cost a penny!”

However, many Scottish politicians and members of the public are opposed to the Daylight Saving Bill. The bill’s proposal would mean that in the winter some areas of Scotland would not get light until 10 am; endangering the lives of children walking to school in the morning. 

But clamour for change continues; apart from road safety issues there are many other arguments in favour of having an extra hour of daylight at the end of each day.

Arguments in favour of ending ‘daylight robbery’

1.Health – evening daylight would mean that more of us would be able to take exercise after work and school. Duncan Parkes is not alone in tweeting about this topic. He said: “Just realised that next week the hour my daughter and I spend in the park after nursery will be taken from us.”

2.Wealth – Visitors to these shores would rather see the sights of the UK in daylight than in darkness. London Mayor Boris Johnson says it is "barmy" not to follow much of Europe in setting clocks an hour ahead of GMT in winter and that the capital is missing out on millions of pounds in income from tourism.

3.Crime – Many think that ending ‘daylight robbery’ would reduce night-time robbery as thieves and muggers prefer to operate on dark evenings rather than dark mornings.

4.Saving daylight hours saves electricity – Longer daylight hours mean that workplace, home and street lights can go on later; saving much-needed electricity in an era of rocketing energy bills. According to Rospa, not putting the clocks back would save enough energy to “power two-thirds of Glasgow”

5.Surprising Scottish support – there is evidence that the Scottish National Party’s opposition to extended BST does not mirror the views of Scottish people. A study of 3,000 Scots by energy provider Npower discovered that 53 per cent of Scots are in favour of having BST all-year round

What happens now?

The Daylight Saving Bill – which backs the change – is set to move to committee stage in the Commons in November.

It could well be time for a change.


[Photo accompanying this article by Sainz]