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Scrap October clock changes to save lives, says RoSPA

British Summer Time (BST) should be maintained all year round to save lives, in particular for vulnerable road users.


Data shows a marked spike in the number of vulnerable road users killed and seriously injured every year after the autumn clock change

So says RoSPA as the House of Lords continues its inquiry into the European Commission’s proposal to end seasonal changes of time in the EU, taking evidence on what it could mean for the UK – including for road safety.

The European Commission proposal plans to stop clock changes in 2021, with members decide for themselves whether their citizens live in summer or winter time.

Individuals giving evidence this week included Nick Lloyd, head of road safety at RoSPA, which has been campaigning since the 1960s for clock changes to be scrapped as it points to the marked spike in road accidents after the clocks go back in the autumn.

The organisation says the potential to save lives by ending the autumn clock change has been shown in a three-year experiment carried out in 1968, which saw the clocks brought forward in March that year and not turned back until October 1971.

Throughout the experiment, road casualty figures were collected during the morning (7-10am) and in the afternoon (4-7pm) in the two winters before the project (1966/67 and 1967/1968) and in the first two winters where BST was retained.

The data revealed that approximately 2,500 fewer people were killed and seriously injured during the winters of 1968/69 and 1969/70 compared to the previous two years; equating to a reduction of 11.7%.

More recently, the RAC Foundation looked at the road casualty data from 2012-2017 for two weeks either side of the clock change. It found in the spring there is a slight fall in the number of causalities, but the October change sees an average increase of 278 collisions – a increase of 5.1%.

According to statistics provided by the Department for Transport, in 2018 pedestrian deaths in Britain rose from 40 in October, to 56 in November and 70 in December. The casualty rate for all road users increased from 490 per billion vehicle miles in October, to 523 per billion vehicle miles in November.

RoSPA’s chief executive Errol Taylor said: “Each year, when the clocks go back in the autumn, there is a marked spike in the number of vulnerable road users killed and seriously injured.

“From the 1968-1971 experiment, we know we can reduce accidents, particularly those involving child pedestrians, by having lighter afternoons and evenings throughout the year. So the question remains, why aren’t we doing this now?”

Insurethebox has also published data revealing the increased risks facing road users after the autumn clock change.

The black box insurance provider’s data, which covers nearly five billion miles of driving, shows an overall 14% increase in accidents across the UK, while the loss in daylight in the evening appears to have a particularly marked impact, with a 36% increase in accidents between 5.00pm and 8.00pm.

The risk varies across the country with the North of England reporting one of the highest increases in accident rates between the months of October and November with a 48% increase in the evening and an 8% increase in the morning rush hour.

Young drivers, aged 17-25, with less experience on the roads are likely to be more vulnerable – especially if they are facing their first experience of driving in wintry conditions since passing their test.

Meanwhile new research from Mercedes-Benz Vans highlights the impact of clock changes on van drivers. More than eight in 10 (83%) say they feel more tired in the autumn and winter compared to summer, with 45% admitting they suffer from low mood more in the darker, colder winter months, according to new research from Mercedes-Benz Vans.

As a result of the darker days, 40% of van drivers said they suffered from fatigue, with nearly half confessing to nearly fallen asleep at the wheel (48%).

The most common method in the van community to alleviate tiredness when driving is by taking a break, cited by 62%, followed by winding down a window (58%).

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. Natalie edits all the Fleet World websites and newsletters, and loves to hear about any latest industry news.