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Watch the clock - drive safely

March, 24 2017 | Noelle Darwent


Watch the clock - drive safely

British Summer Time starts on Sunday 26th March

Watch out that losing an hour's sleep due to daylight saving (26th March 2017) doesn't affect your driving performance. There is evidence that our bodies take a few days to adjust to the new time and disruption to sleep can blunt our mental edge.

In 1999, researchers at Johns Hopkins and Stanford universities researched what happens to the road accident statistics when millions of drivers have their sleep disrupted. They analysed 21 years of fatal car crash data and found a small, but significant, increase in road deaths on the Monday after the clock move forward. The number of fatal accidents increased by an average of 83.5 on the "spring forward" Monday compared with an average of 78.2 on a typical Monday.

There is also some evidence that there is an increase in both heart attacks and road accidents on the days after clocks are set forward one hour in the spring.

Why do we have Daylight saving?

William Willett campaigned from 1907 to advance clocks at the beginning of spring but died before it was implemented. The Summer Time Act 1916 advanced the clocks in the UK during the spring and summer to save energy and help the war effort. The system was so popular it has been adopted, ever since. There have been periods, particularly during World War 2, when DST (British Double Summer Time) was trialled.

From February 1968 to November 1971 Great Britain kept daylight saving throughout the year but it was abandoned in 1972 because of its unpopularity, particularly in the North. The current system of "Spring forward and Fall back" has been in operation ever since.

Is Daylight Saving a Good thing?

There is thriving campaign to keep British Summer Time or British Summer Time in winter and Double Summer Time in the summer, because it could save many road deaths due to lighter evenings, save energy and even improve health and wellbeing. The 2009, the Department for Transport's consultation paper, "A Safer Way: Making Britain's Roads the Safest in the World", confirmed that moving to lighter evenings would prevent about 80 deaths on the road a year. There would be a one-off cost of about £5million to publicise the change but then benefits of around £138million per year, as well as energy savings, business benefits and more opportunities for sport and leisure. There is still opposition to the change from the North and Scotland and from industries whose workers rise early in the morning.

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