Scrapping October clock change ‘could reduce number of road deaths by 4.5%’

The UK could reduce the number of people killed on our roads by 4.5% and save the economy £160 million by scrapping the October clock change, road safety charity IAM RoadSmart has said.

The charity, which is calling on the Government to stop the practice, believes that moving to a permanent daylight-saving system would significantly improve road safety, especially for vulnerable road users such as children, pedestrians and cyclists.

“Every year there are unnecessary victims of road collisions throughout the winter months during commutes to work or school which could easily be avoided if the Government scrapped the process of changing the clocks,” said Neil Greig, policy and research director at IAM RoadSmart.

“Young pedestrians under 15 are already a huge ‘at risk’ group for road safety, and that risk becomes even greater as the nights draw in. Stopping the change of clocks would be easy to implement and, without question, would save lives – there are no good road safety reasons why this isn’t happening. The UK should at least set up a two-year trial to prove the benefits once and for all.”

In November and December 2019, the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths and injuries rose by 344 (from 6,787 to 7,131) compared with the two months prior to the clock change. Figures have shown that casualty rates rise between 3pm and 7pm as the days shorten. IAM RoadSmart has warned that the dark afternoons are an “especially dangerous time” for youngsters coming home.

To facilitate the improvement, IAM RoadSmart recommended earlier this year that to allow extra daylight in the afternoons, we should not put the clocks back this winter, then next March move one hour ahead – and then go back one hour in October 2021 – a so-called ‘double British summertime’.

“Clearly it is now unfortunately too late to do anything ahead of this weekend, but we urge the Government to reconsider its policy ahead of next March,” added Greig. “Road safety is now about small incremental gains from a number of policy changes and daylight saving could play its part in helping break the current flat lining in road deaths we are seeing in this country.”

In 1968, the UK Government carried out a three-year experiment which saw the clocks not being put back from March until October 1971, essentially staying in summer time for three years. Throughout the experiment, figures were collected at peak times which revealed that around 2,500 fewer people were killed or injured during the winters where the clocks weren’t put back, a reduction of nearly 12%.

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