Daylight savings at 100 – a century of wasted opportunity

The daylight savings system reaches 100 years old in 2016.

The daylight savings system reaches 100 years old in 2016.

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As the daylight savings system reaches 100 years old in 2016, family safety charity RoSPA – which also celebrates its centenary this year – is calling for a time-shift fit for the 21st century.

British Summer Time (BST) was introduced during the First World War in May 1916 in response to the German, decision to take the same step to make the most of daylight hours. In the UK for the rest of the war, the clocks ran one hour ahead of GMT through the summer.

This same practice has been implemented by the Government since then, other than a short period during the Second World War and an experiment between 1968 and 1971, during which year-round BST was trialled, saving around 2,500 deaths and serious injuries each year of the trial period.

But 100 years on from its introduction, RoSPA is once again calling for a more significant change to the system which has now been made obsolete through changing technology, working practices, tourist habits and other factors.

The current system is also dangerous for pedestrians. Every autumn when the clocks go back and the sunset occurs earlier in the day, road casualties rise, with the effects being worse for vulnerable road users like pedestrians, children, the elderly, cyclists and motorcyclists.

In 2015, pedestrian deaths rose from 27 in September to 42 in October, 45 in November and 58 in December.

RoSPA is calling for a change from the current regime of GMT in the winter and GMT+1 in the summer, to Single/Double Summer Time (SDST), which would move the clock forward to GMT+1 in the winter, and GMT+2 in the summer. This would increase evening sunlight year-round.

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety, said: “Child pedestrians are particularly vulnerable during the afternoon school run, when they digress on their way home and so are exposed to traffic risk for longer than their morning trip to school. During that period motorists are also tired after the day’s work, concentration levels are low, and journey times are increased due to shopping and social trips.

“For these reasons, increased evening daylight would produce significant results in preventing accidents to children and other road users.”

RoSPA chief executive Tom Mullarkey added: “Not only would we save a significant number of lives through a change to SDST, but we would also boost the tourism industry, increase recreational time for children through sports and other activity, allow older people to reduce the winter evening curfew, lower opportunistic crime, and decrease CO2 production and fuel costs, all in one fell swoop. It is the only way we can make so many material improvements to our country, at a stroke, at no cost.

“Unfortunately there are those who are determined to cling onto a practice which was innovative and forward-looking in 1916 but which has not been updated to its full potential a hundred years later. In these conditions of economic uncertainty and austerity, this simple measure would raise everyone’s morale and set us up to deal with whatever troubles may lie ahead. We need our politicians to show the leadership and foresight of their wartime forbears, in our darkest hour.”

For more information on SDST see www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/road-users/british-summertime-fact-sheet/ and www.rospa.com/lets-talk-about/2016/october/lighter-evenings/