UK Should Move Clocks Forward To Cut Winter Road Deaths

UK road deaths could be cut by 6% – around 200 people a year – if we put clocks forward rather than back each winter, according to figures released today by insurer (

The announcement, which comes just before the shortest day of the year (22 December), indicates that using British Summer Time (BST) in summer and BST+1 in winter would significantly cut road deaths during the shorter winter days. At present the UK uses BST in summer and then reverts to GMT, one hour behind BST, in winter.

The yesinsurance figures show that the move would cause a slight increase in road deaths in the darker mornings, but would result in a bigger decrease in deaths in the late afternoon and evenings. As a result, the insurer says the figures for last year could have been reduced from 3,172 deaths from road accidents to around 2,989. In addition, the change could have seen serious injuries drop from the 2006 figure of 28,673 to under 27,000.

“In 2006, deaths on British roads totalled 522 in the five hours between 6am and 11am, rising to 961 from 3pm to 8pm,” said Paul Purdy of

“Accident statistics show that darkness increases the level of risk on the roads and our own experience of making insurance payments on car accidents mirrors this pattern. Moving clocks forward in winter would help to reduce accidents later in the day, whilst the corresponding increase in accidents earlier in the day would be smaller.”

In addition to cutting road accidents, the move would also result in a significant saving in CO2 emissions. This is because a large proportion of the population is asleep during dark mornings, whilst more people are awake – and hence using power for heating and lighting – during the afternoon and early evening.

An idea to put clocks forward in winter was dropped following an experiment undertaken between 1968 and 1971, based on anecdotal evidence relating to early morning accidents involving schoolchildren. However, the insurer says that a properly monitored study would reveal a bigger decrease in accidents later in the day, many of which would have been at the time children were coming home from school.

Whilst some may say that Scotland would be at a disadvantage due to its shorter hours of daylight, the insurer said that it would benefit from the same reductions in accidents as the rest of the UK.

“The same rules regarding the timing of road accidents apply in Scotland as they do in the rest of the UK. However, it would be perfectly possible for Scotland to operate on a one hour time difference to the rest of the UK in winter, if that was preferred,” he said.

In 2007, clocks were on BST (one hour ahead of GMT) between 25 March and 27 October, and GMT the rest of the year.

On 22 December 2007, the shortest day of the year, the yesinsurance proposal of using BST+1 (or GMT+2) would see a two-hour shift from the current winter time. This would mean that the sun would rise two hours later in London at just after 10am, with sunset just before 6pm. In Edinburgh on that day, the sun would rise around 39 minutes later than London, with sunset about 14 minutes earlier.

The yesinsurance research backs up a similar report issued earlier this year by Cambridge University engineers, which said that staying on BST all year could prevent 104 road deaths and 450 serious injuries, saving the National Health Service £200m a year. However, the insurer says that greater benefits could be derived from its proposition of moving to BST+1 in winter.




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