The road safety problem
Every autumn when the clocks go back and sunset occurs earlier in the day, the number of road casualties rise, with the effects being worse for the most vulnerable road users like children, older people, cyclists and motorcyclists.
In 2018, pedestrian deaths rose from 42 in September and 40 in October, to 56 in November and 70 in December.
Why does this happen?
Year-round casualty rates typically peak during the working week between the hours of 8-10am and 3-7pm. The afternoon peaks are higher, due to factors including:
- Motorists being more tired after a day’s work, with concentration levels being lower
- Children digress on their way home from school, compared to the morning journey in which they take more direct routes, increasing their exposure to road dangers
- Adults tend to go shopping or visit friends and relatives after work, increasing their journey times and exposure to road dangers
- Social and leisure trips are generally made in the late afternoons and early evenings
When the sun suddenly sets earlier during the afternoon rush hours in the autumn, these dangers are exacerbated and we see an increase in casualty numbers, particularly for vulnerable road users.
Ending daylight saving clock changes
The European Commission has proposed to end seasonal clock changes by 2021, meaning that member countries, including the UK, would select a time zone that it would stick to year-round.
RoSPA is in favour of this proposal, and is calling for the Government to adopt British Summer Time (GMT+1) all year. This would mean road users will no longer experience the sudden onset of darkness during their autumn commutes, potentially saving many lives. This will also mean that the country has an extra hour of usable daylight in the afternoons and evenings, which brings many other benefits.
Governments opting to make summer time permanent would adjust their clocks for the last time in March 2021.
The latest evidence
Very recent research has backed up findings from 1968-71, when there was a trial in which the clocks were on permanent BST, and which made the roads safer. The RAC Foundation, with support from Road Safety Analysis, looked at STATS19 data (detailed information about road collisions and casualties from the Department for Transport) from 2012 to 2017, for two-week intervals on either side of both UK clock changes, comparing these 336 hour periods with each other.
It found that during the fortnight after the GMT to BST change in the spring, there was an 11.32 per cent reduction in annual RTCs (74 fewer), and an 18.93 per cent increase in the two weeks after the clocks were turned back from BST to GMT in the autumn. Further details of this study are included in the BST Factsheet.