Daylight Saving - Is It Dangerous For Drivers?

posted on Oct 27 2017 by Karen Liggett

Daylight Saving - Is It Dangerous For Drivers?

The days are getting shorter, the nights are drawing in. It doesn’t seem long ago that the clocks were springing forward and we were getting numerous orders for convertibles, but soon we will be changing our clocks for daylight saving time once again. At 2am on 29th October 2017 it’s time to put the clocks back by one hour.

There are a lot of things to dislike about daylight saving time: the disruption in our sleep schedule, the onslaught of seasonal puns in retail advertisements, the fact that it doesn't work as well at saving energy as we've always been told, and thus, it really serves no purpose. But have you ever thought about the possibility that daylight saving time might actually be dangerous? When the clocks spring forward and fall back each year, it's only by an hour, but research suggests it may take days to adjust to the time difference. And during that adjustment period, there is a spike in car crashes, especially after we "spring forward" and lose an hour of sleep. Some police departments say that there's about a 10 percent increase in crashes just after the time change [source: Boynton] and there's even evidence that figure might be much higher.

Road safety organisations like RoSPA and GEM Motoring Assist continue to call for a change from the current regime of GMT in the winter and GMT+1 in the summer, to Single/Double Summer Time (SDST). This would move the clock forward to GMT+1 in the winter, and GMT+2 in the summer. This would increase evening sunlight year-round.

On the other hand, it’s as much the weather as the darkness that can lay claim to contributing to road casualty statistics in winter, but surely an extra hour of daylight at peak hours would improve driving conditions?

From 1968 through ‘71, year-round BST was trialled, and lowered the number of serious injuries on the road by 2,500. And there were fewer cars on the road back then.

Experts believe an adjustment of the clocks to GMT + 1 in the winter and GMT + 2 in the summer, could prevent 80 deaths and more than 200 serious injuries on the UK’s road each year.

The latest statistics from the Department for Transport show that of the 15,976 children hurt on Britain’s roads in 2016, nearly a quarter (22%) were hurt during the hours of 3-5pm, while more than one in three of all pedestrian casualties happened between those times.

This is in comparison to 14% of children being injured during the morning school run, between the hours of 7-9am.

In fact, in every year since 2006 the majority of road casualties have occurred between the hours of 4-6pm; each year, the number of people killed and seriously injured on the country’s roads spikes immediately after the autumn clock change, due to the suddenly-darker evenings.

GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said “Dark spells danger for pedestrians. There is a 10% rise in fatal pedestrian collisions during the four weeks after the clocks go back. This is bad news when the latest casualty figures already show a 10% rise in pedestrian fatalities year on year.

“Estimates from the Department for Transport’s own research suggest the benefits of a move to SDST would amount to nearly £140m annually, with just a modest £5m one-off investment in communicating the change.

“We believe the reasons for opposing the change – generally from those representing the interests of farmers and postal workers – are irrelevant and outdated. After all, farming technology is vastly improved, and postal deliveries take place throughout the day, not purely in the early mornings.

“GEM, in line with all safety groups, supports a change to SDST, because it will make a significant contribution to reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads.”

Errol Taylor, RoSPA chief executive, said: “Too many children and other road users are being killed and seriously injured on Britain’s roads because the autumn clock change suddenly plunges their evening journey into darkness, at the same time as other risk factors such as lower levels of alertness for motorists, and children’s tendency to take an indirect route home from school.

“The current daylight savings system is archaic, developed at a time when working practices and technology – not least automated vehicles – were a million miles from what we have today. We’d like to see the Government assess the potential benefits of the change, which could take the form of a short trial.

“Not only would a change save lives and reduce injuries, but it would also have a host of other benefits in terms of the environment, health, tourism, crime and social isolation.”

RoSPA clearly thinks that changing the daylight hours is a way of reducing serious accidents on our roads, but would it work? After all, by mid November, both morning and evening commutes will take place in darker conditions any way.