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One hundred years of turning back time – British Summer Time (BST) and road safety

Despite the ‘Indian Summer’ some areas of the UK experienced last week, we’re swiftly approaching that time of year again when the clocks go back an hour, signalling the official end of British Summer Time (BST) and a return to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). 

It was one hundred years ago that British Summer Time (or Daylight Saving Time, DST) was first established by the Summer Time Act of 1916, the idea behind it being that by moving to GMT+1 we could make the most of the hours of sunlight during the summer months, improve productivity, and reduce domestic energy consumption. 

However, the practice of returning to GMT every October has remained a contentious issue ever since. Every autumn, when the clocks go back and sunset occurs earlier in the day, road casualties rise in the evenings (in a higher proportion to any reduction of incidents in the mornings). Research shows that road traffic incidents are more likely to occur during the evening peak, when driver attentiveness declines and darkness reduces visibility (Hillman, 2010). This is partly because people tend to go straight to work or school in the morning, but take less direct routes home to the shops, to visit relatives, participate in hobbies/sports, or after-school activities etc, hence we have more casualties in the evenings. 

Autumn and winter in the UK present many additional driving hazards for road users. Roads become slippery with fallen leaves, rainwater, frost and ice, and visibility can be poor due to lower sun, mist, rainfall, snow or fog. Reduced light levels also adversely impact on visibility and there may be less opportunity for drivers to react to potentially dangerous situations (Cronin & Garnsey, 2007). In 2009, a report by the National Audit Office stated that there were 10% more collisions killing or injuring a pedestrian in the four weeks following the clocks going back than in the four weeks before the clocks changed. 

In 2009, the Department for Transport's consultation paper, "A Safer Way: Making Britain's Roads the Safest in the World", reported that moving to lighter evenings would prevent about 80 deaths on the road a year. There would be a one-off cost of about £5 million to publicise the change but subsequent benefits of around £138 million per year, as well as energy savings, business benefits and more opportunities for sport and leisure.

Because of these road safety concerns and potential benefits, as well as other socio-economic and environmental arguments, there is growing support in the UK for a move to adopt a system known as ‘Single Double Summer Time’ (SDST), which would mean that we apply GMT+1 during the winter months, and GMT+2 during the summer months. Supporters of SDST, such as Brake, the national road safety charity, and RoSPA (Royal Society of Prevention of Accidents) assert that this would create lighter evenings all year round and result in fewer people being killed and injured in road accidents.

However, as the debate continues to rumble on, the fact remains that it is imperative that we continue to make every effort to minimise the risk of road traffic accidents on winter evenings. When visibility is poor at night, or due to adverse weather, some lane markings can be almost invisible. Clearview Intelligence has a range of solutions which provide strong, reliable visual guidance to assist road users to safely navigate their journey in such conditions. 

By cutting through difficult, low-visibility weather environments, such as heavy rain, fog or mist, our SolarLite active road studs significantly increase the reaction time available to the driver by illuminating and demarcating the road ahead in the driver’s natural line of sight. This advance warning helps drivers to anticipate what's coming up and to react in a safe and controlled manner, reducing the likelihood of an incident. 

Additionally, we offer hardwired Intelligent Road Stud (IRS2) solutions, which provide simple and effective solutions to complex challenges, for example through tunnels, to highlight the approach and provide crossing demarcation on level crossings, and to prevent lane transgression on spiral roundabouts or unlit sections of carriageway. 

Active stud technology is also used to light the way for cyclists and pedestrians along towpaths, footpaths and cycle routes, encouraging a greater feeling of safety and year round use. 

So enjoy your extra hour in bed on Sunday 30th October, but once you have endured the bleary-eyed argument with the kids that 6am on a Sunday is not an acceptable time to get up, and you’ve dug out the car manual on Monday morning to remember how on earth you changed the time on the dashboard clock six months ago (if you did!), then get in touch with us to see how we can help you find the right solution for your road safety challenge this Autumn.

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