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, the elderly, cyclists and motorcyclists.
In 2017, the number of pedestrian deaths rose from 37 in September to 46 in October, 63 in November, and 50 in December. The casualty rate for all road users increased from 520 per billion vehicle miles in October to 580 per billion vehicle miles in November.
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.