Turn back the hands of time this weekend

It might mean another hour in bed on Sunday morning but the clocks changing in autumn don’t always mean good things.

Long story short the reasons our clocks change in the UK is because most of us waste precious daylight in the morning and then complain about the dark nights (paraphrase). Because of this, we have something called British Summer Time (BST) which means from March till October our clocks go forward 1 hour.

This means that Britain is out of step with most of Europe because they follow Central European Time (CET). It also means that in the winter some parts of Britain will start getting dark at 3.30PM. This weekend will see BST come to an end meaning we get an extra hour in bed.

Why are darker evenings more dangerous?

There are multiple reasons for the increase in casualties in the winter evenings, mainly it comes down to it being darker. Cyclists, pedestrians, road signs and other road users are just simply harder to spot, especially if the weather isn’t great.  

Social activity for adults and children during the week usually happen after work or school, so during the winter, these journeys are made in the dark.  It also means the volume of cars on the road in the dark is higher. Finally, drivers tend to be more tired after a day’s work, so their concentration levels drop in comparison to the morning.

All of these factors increase the casualty rate on the roads with the arrival of the darker evenings and poor weather combined. In 2013 there were more than twice as many pedestrian fatalities in December compared to June of that year. Research has found that fatal pedestrian collisions increase by 10% in the first four weeks after the clocks go back.

Further studies have shown that casualty rates peak during the hours of 5pm-6pm for adults and 3.30pm – 4.30pm for children. There is also a peak in the morning between the times of 8 am and    9 am proving all these times coincide with rush hour, be that going to work or the school run. Stats show this is already a dangerous time to be on the road due to the volume of traffic so the dark nights just amplify the possible risk.

Is there a solution?

It would be easier to say walk more, use public transport or cycle but this isn’t an option for everyone, there is actually an easier solution than this that wouldn’t need anyone to change their current routine.

The possible solution is something called Single/Double British Summertime (SDST).  This would mean adjusting the clocks by +1 during the winter time and +2 in the summertime, doing this would give the UK an extra hour of daylight throughout the year.

Doing this, it is estimated that around 80 deaths and more than 200 serious injuries on UK roads could be prevented each year. That’s not the only benefit, it would also help the environment by reducing C02 levels along with the demand for electricity. It could also have an effect on health as longer evenings might encourage people to be more active due to it being lighter for longer.

So why hasn’t it happened?

Good question. It is estimated that it would cost around £5 million to publicise the change but by making the change, it is estimated it would save a massive £138 million per year.

Other reasons that may have stopped this change from taking place is due to previous trials, which were blocked from proceeding. From 1968 to 1971 the UK ran an experiment where Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) +1 was used all year round. Analysis of the data actually showed an 11% reduction in casualties and overall around 2,500 fewer people were killed or seriously injured during the first two winters of the experiment.

Despite the reduction of casualties, the continuation of the trail was blocked by a vote in the House of Commons. The reason for the block was concern over disrupting the ‘early morning workers’ like postal workers and farmers.

Are we due a change?

Why not? We tried it then so why not try something different now? Things have changed a lot since 1971 including ‘early morning workers’ for example, postal workers now more commonly make their deliveries from mid morning to mid afternoon taking away the early morning shift. Farming has also changed a lot over the years as farming methods have progressed. Even the National Farmers Union for Scotland has said they are neutral on the topic where before they were opposed to it. 

For more information on how to prevent injuries now the nights are getting darker click here.

Have you been involved in an accident during the darker evening and it wasn’t your fault? Why not speak to one of our expert advisers to see what your options are.

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