Let’s go back to 1968

   Let’s go back to 1968

1968 was a tumultuous and historically pivotal year, remembered for political assassinations in the USA, student protests in Paris and, on a lighter note, The Beatles released their ninth LP – The White Album.

However, what has largely been forgotten is that 1968 is the year in which the UK government embarked upon a three-year experiment which saved hundreds of lives. The experiment saw the clocks move forward in March 1968 and not turn back until October 1971. In other words, for three years we had permanent British Summer Time (BST).

As part of the experiment, road casualty figures were collected during the morning (7-10am) and in the afternoon (4-7pm) in the two winters before the try-out (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. This represented a reduction of 11.7 per cent.
In 1971 the experiment was wound up, shelved and quietly forgotten. RoSPA believes this was a mistake. Today, each and every October when the clocks go back, serious and fatal road accidents increase.
                                                               The Daylight Savings Spike

Last year, according to statistics provided by the Department for Transport, pedestrian deaths as a result of road accidents 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 – we call this the daylight savings spike.

In 2017 a similar pattern emerged, with pedestrian fatalities as a result of road accidents rising from 37 in September to 46 in October, 63 in November and 50 in December.
We believe we should maintain permanent British Summer Time to ensure lighter afternoons and evenings, because the road accident rate is higher later in the day. During the 1968-71 experiment, casualties did increase in the morning but the decrease in road accidents in the evening far outweighed this.  
There are a number of reasons why there are more accidents in the afternoons and evenings, such as:
  • Motorists are more tired after a day’s work and concentration levels are lower
  • Children tend to go travel directly to school in the morning but often digress on their way home, which increases their exposure to road dangers
  • Adults tend to go shopping or visit friends after work, increasing their journey times and exposure to road dangers
  • Social and leisure trips are generally made in the late afternoon and evenings, again increasing time on the road.
Given that the 1968-71 experiment has largely been erased in the popular memory, this suggests that it had little to no adverse effect on the population at large. This is in stark contrast to other phenomena in the same era, such as a ‘three day week’, which many will often grimly recall.

Since 1960 RoSPA has campaigned to save lives by altering the daylight savings system. RoSPA continues to call for the government to learn from the 1968 trial and employ British Summer Time – GMT+1 – all year round.

Nick Lloyd, head of road safety, RoSPA

Posted: 10/24/2019 3:22:24 PM 1 comments


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