Recently, campaigners have been calling for politicians to commit to putting the clocks forward an hour permanently to improve road safety and reduce road traffic accidents. So should the UK move the clocks forward 1 hour for good?
Brake – the road safety charity – suggest that changing the clocks to GMT+1 in the winter and GMT+2 in the summer could prevent 80 deaths a year and reduce many serious injuries from road traffic accidents, saving NHS £138 million per year in related costs.
The new changes would mean more people travel to work in the daylight, making the roads safer for everyone, including cyclists and pedestrians who are more at risk during the darker winter months.
The Royal Society of Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says that during the working week, casualty rates are at their worst around 8am, 10am, 3pm and 7pm, in particular during the afternoon. Each year when the clocks go back and sunset is earlier in the day, road accidents increase.
From Autumn to Winter in 2013, statistics showed a significant rise in the amount of road traffic accidents which RoSPA explains were as a result of a number of factors:
- Lower concentration levels at the end of the working day
- Children take more time on their journey home after school and are more at risk
- Journey times for adults increase in the evenings due to shopping or visiting friends and family
Light conditions at sunset are also said to have a significant impact on road traffic safety through dimmer light and the sun’s glare.
It’s argued there many other benefits to moving the clocks forward an hour, not just in terms of road safety. The extra hour of daylight would make for more productivity, and also means people use less electricity for lighting. This alternative is estimated to cut 447,000 tonnes of CO2 pollution each year as people make the most of the daylight available to them.
Other factors include reduced crime and health benefits such as tackling Seasonal Defective Disorder.
So in the face of so many benefits, why hasn’t it been done already?
Over the last century a number of changes have been made to the clocks in Britain, most notably during WW1. However, there are many other factors for consideration when looking at the arguments.
One of the biggest arguments is that the benefits of moving to GMT+1 throughout the year would benefit England and Wales, but not Scotland. In parts of Scotland the sun would rise at 10am, meaning higher risk of road traffic accidents the further north in the UK you go.
According to Motoring Solicitor DFR Solicitors “There is an argument that increased risk of accidents due to increased darkness in the morning would cancel out any positive effects of reducing the risks in the evening”.
Also, research suggests there is a greater risk of heart attacks immediately following the change to Daylight Saving Time. This shows just how much of an effect the changes could have on the `body clock` and its effect on our health.
Despite support from the Lighter Later coalition and Brake, many MPs, and 26,300 members of the public, the Daylight Saving Bill has yet to be passed.
However, it does highlight the need to be more careful and pay more attention when driving around the times when the clocks change to avoid picking up penalties for motoring offences and make the roads safer.