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28 Oct 2011

This week road safety experts have been on their soap-boxes big time, debating the overhaul of an age-old British tradition – the clock change. The mundane routine of winding the clocks forward or back at the change of the seasons has been part of British life since the turn of the last century, marked by a precious extra hour in bed on a wintery Sunday morning, or an hour stolen back in Spring. However, this year the clock change has been surrounded by controversy as campaigners clamor for change in a bid to make our roads safer.

Simon Best, the Chief Executive of the Institute of Advanced Motoring claimed this week that putting an end to the winter clock change would ‘save lives’.

The IAM is proposing a 3-year trial which would see the clocks move forward by one hour throughout the entire year while still putting the clocks forward in spring and back in autumn, resulting in lighter evenings and darker mornings.

Yesterday Brake and Autoglass combined forces and joined the discussion. They brandished their survey results which found that 67 percent of people believed putting the clocks forward by one hour throughout the year would make our roads safer. They are urging Government to consider a ‘Daylight Saving Bill’ which would review and act upon evidence on the impact of such a change.

In principle, putting the clocks forward all year round isn’t a bad idea. Leaving work in the pitch black is miserable and increases the urge to curl up in a warm house instead of making the most of our evenings. And on the flip side, having the sun pour through the blinds at 5am throughout summertime can be equally annoying for us late risers. Blimey, we really are hard to please, aren’t we?

However, from a safety perspective we can’t help questioning the effectiveness of uprooting the current system. Instead of leaving school in the dark, children would leave school in a dreary half-light which if anything increases the risk of an accident. Light at dusk and dawn can be deceptive. As daylight fades at dusk, hazards that could be easily seen earlier are not clearly defined by twilight and become difficult to see.

As for the winter clock change increasing car crime, a fact which is backed up by stats, is an extra hour of daylight really going to dissuade hardened criminals? Will they not just wait patiently in their getaway car, drumming their fingers on their crowbar for a few extra minutes until darkness falls? We are talking about the difference of an hour remember – we doubt that will make much on an impact on car crime.

We are all for improving road safety, but would it not be more beneficial to focus efforts on educating drivers and pedestrians to be more observant and cautious during the dark winter months than going to great lengths to change a system which will only buy us an extra hour of daylight anyway? Even if the clocks do move forward, we are still left with 15 hours of darkness in which there is a heightened risk of road accidents. A change in attitudes is the key to tackling this issue.


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