Four decades since an experiment temporarily changed timekeeping in the UK, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is calling for another chance to prove the road safety benefits of a system to bring lighter evenings all year round.
The clocks were set to British Summer Time (Greenwich Mean Time + 1 hour) for the entire duration of a three-year trial, which ran from 1968-1971.
Although studies revealed there were fewer deaths and serious injuries on the roads during the trial, Parliament decided to return to the previous arrangements – following GMT from October to March and BST from March to October.
The last study showed that 450 deaths and serious injuries could be prevented each year if the UK again changes the way it keeps time – but in a slightly different way to that tried in the 1968/71 experiment.
Under the plan, there would be lighter evenings all year because the clocks would always be ahead of GMT – by an hour in the winter and two hours in the summer.
RoSPA wants the Government to agree to a three-year trial to prove the road safety arguments and enable people to experience extra time for outdoor leisure activities, reduced fuel use and the business benefits of being in line with Europe.
Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA Chief Executive, said: “Every day throughout the winter period, a person will die unnecessarily because the Government will not hear this argument.
“If you add up the deaths and serious injuries since the experiment proved the case in 1971, more than 5,000 people have died and nearly 30,000 have been seriously injured because of this unwillingness to apply objective thinking. We need to recognise that our Victorian forbears set up an imperfect system and that it is vital to arrange our daylight usage in a way that suits the way we live in the modern world.
“Where is the political courage to put this tragic and terrible injustice right? Why will nobody in power do anything about the untimely and violent deaths and injuries of so many people and the unremitting pain this inflicts on their families?”
Every autumn after the clocks have gone back, there is an increase in road casualty rates. Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable and they are at greater risk during dark evenings, when people spend more time out and about. An extra hour of daylight in the evening could prevent many of these deaths and serious injuries.
On Monday evening, many people will be travelling home in the dark for the first time in six months. RoSPA's advice is:
· Adapt your driving: watch your speed and leave plenty of room from the car in front
· Keep an even greater look-out for pedestrians and two-wheelers
· Relax – do not try to battle the traffic
· Allow extra time for your journey home
· Pedestrians and cyclists should ensure they can be easily seen by drivers
Under the RoSPA plan for Single/Double Summertime, rather than reverting to GMT in October, the clocks would stay one hour ahead until March when they would be put forward another hour. After these initial adjustments, the clocks would still be moved backwards and forwards by an hour in the autumn and the spring, but would always stay ahead of GMT.
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