Experts say that keeping evenings lighter in the winter would reduce road deaths, which traditionally increase as winter closes in.
The combination of wet weather and darker evenings as a result of the clocks going back significantly reduce driver visibility. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) believes about 450 deaths and serious injuries would be avoided on the country’s roads each year simply by altering the way clocks are changed in autumn and spring. It is calling for a three-year time trial to prove its claims.
In 2004, road deaths rose from 269 in October to 300 in November and to 323 in December. Pedestrian deaths went up from 56 in October to 76 in November and 78 in December and the overall casualty rate for road accidents also increased, the society says.
The RoSPA plan is known as Single/Double Summertime. Instead of reverting to Greenwich Mean Time in October, the clocks would stay one hour ahead until March, when they would be put forward another hour. This would result in darker mornings, but an extra hour of evening daylight throughout the year.
Thereafter, the clocks would still be moved backwards and forwards by an hour in autumn and spring, but would always stay ahead of GMT.
Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety, said: ‘We will continue to lobby the Government, urging it to support the scheme for lighter evenings all year round. Studies show that vulnerable road users such as children and the elderly are more at risk during dark evenings than in the morning.’
Safety organisation RoadSafe says about 25% of all fatal crashes in the UK happen between 4pm and 9pm, the majority in the winter months.
Edmund King, executive director at the RAC Foundation, stressed the need for effective street lighting. He said: ‘It is impossible to overestimate the importance of good lighting during the hours of darkness. Advances in road and vehicle safety are of no value unless drivers can see where they are going and other road users can see the vehicle properly.’