Clocks going back - be seen and be safe!

Before you go to bed tonight make sure you turn your clocks back an hour as daylight saving officially ends at 2am, Sunday morning. And while this means the mornings will be a bit lighter for a few weeks, it also means the evenings will be darker and the roads more dangerous for vulnerable road users.

Be seen, be safe

Cyclists and pedestrians are being advised to do their part and ‘be seen and be safe’ as the nights draw in – the shorter days means there’s more of them on the roads when it’s dark, and the reduced visibility makes it more difficult for motorists to see them. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) recommends cyclists wear brightly coloured or, ideally, fluorescent and reflective clothing at all times, even during daylight hours, as visibility might still be poor.

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Furthermore, cyclists are being reminded that, by law, their bikes must be fitted with reflectors and they must have front and rear lights switched on when it’s dark. They’re also being advised to keep lights on during the day, too. The ‘be seen, be safe’ message is also being extended to pedestrians and joggers as they can easily be missed – and subsequently hit – by motorists who have not seen them because they’re wearing dark clothing.

Darkness dangers

All these recommendations are not just scaremongering based on conjecture. RoSPA has startling statistics showing how, during the working week, casualty rates for adults peak at 8am and 5pm and for children peak at 8am and 3.30pm. And every autumn, when the clocks go back, road casualties rise, particularly for the most vulnerable groups such as children, cyclists, motorcyclists and the elderly. For instance, in 2012 pedestrian deaths rose from 32 in September, to 40 in October, were slightly lower at 38 in November but then shot up to 61 in December, the darkest month of the year. And a recent survey by Smart Witness (makers of the camera that exposed this crash for cash attempt) has shown that nearly two-thirds (60%) of drivers are actually against the clocks going back this weekend as there is a direct link between this and accident mortality rates. Furthermore, Department for Transport (DfT) statistics suggest lighter evenings could prevent around 80 deaths and at least 200 serious accidents from occurring on our roads each year. That is why RoSPA has repeatedly called for the UK to switch to Single/Double Summer Time.

Should we switch to Single/Double Summer Time?

Single/Double Summer Time would see the UK aligning itself with Central European Time (CET), which would mean we adopt GMT +1 in the winter and then GMT +2 in the summer. So, we would keep the clocks as they are now, meaning mornings are darker but evenings are lighter, and then in the summer we’d have an extra hour of light in the evening – and, given the summer sunrise times, this would hardly make a noticeable difference in the mornings. A similar scheme was tried in the UK between 1968 and 1971 when GMT+1 was employed all year round. This trial period saw a drop of around 2,500 deaths and serious injuries each year, although admittedly from a much higher starting point – casualty figures were much higher back then. A Daylight Savings Bill was recently put forward by MP Rebecca Harris but was defeated at the final stage in January 2012. So as the clocks going back tomorrow is a formality, and looks like it will be for the next few winters. So the simple message remains: Be seen and be safe.

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