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I doubt I’m the only person who was very happy when the clocks went forward! Suddenly it feels like I have so much more time in my day, I’m keen to get outside in the evenings, and I feel generally perkier in the daylight. But the benefits of lighter nights go far beyond this and, for me, one of the most important benefits is the improvement in road safety.
There is a lot of research about the safety benefits of lighter nights. The research shows road casualty rates increase with the arrival of darker evenings. When the clocks go back in the autumn and sunset occurs earlier in the day, road casualties rise. The effects are worse for the most vulnerable road users like children, the elderly and cyclists.
One study showed the casualty rate for all road users increased from 546 per billion vehicle miles in October 2016 to 602 per billion vehicle miles in November 2016. Another study found an 11% reduction in road casualties in England and Wales during the lighter nights period and a 17% reduction in Scotland.
In 2009, the Department for Transport's consultation paper "A Safer Way: Making Britain's Roads the Safest in the World" said a move to lighter evenings would prevent about 80 deaths on the road a year.
Given these road safety benefits, there have, over the years, been many calls for a permanent ‘clock’ change. The charity RoSPA is a major advocate for change. The proposed change is known as ‘Single/Double British Summertime (SDST)’, which means adopting GMT+1 hour during the winter period and GMT+2 hours during the summer period. Yes, we would still have to remember to change the clocks and recite “spring forward/fall back” to be sure we had the new time correct.
Studies have also identified a wide variety of benefits beyond road safety: cut carbon emissions by 450,000 tonnes each year (the equivalent to 85% of all the power generated by wind, wave and solar renewable energy in England); reduce CO2 pollution by at least 447,000 tonnes each year; savings of £260m a year on electricity bills (based on1990s figures); boost overall tourism earnings by an estimated £3bn; increase jobs by 60,000 to 80,000 to cater for increased tourism; save the NHS £200m a year in accident related costs; reduce crime by 3%; increase exercise levels and improve health to name a few.
All this in addition to reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roads. A large part of my work is with people who have been seriously injured when knocked over crossing the road. Many of my clients are children on their way to and from school or playing with friends near home. I also work with many cyclists who have been injured when knocked off their bike. Evening darkness – or even late afternoon darkness during the depths of the winter – is often a factor.
There are of course pros and cons to changing to SDST, and various groups have different views and valid concerns (for example Cycling UK raises the issue of the potential for greater exposure to icy conditions on winter mornings), but the potential to make people safer on the road is hugely important.
For more information regarding our work with people injured on our roads, please contact Ann Houghton who will be happy to speak to you on an initial free, no-obligation basis.
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