Between 1968-71 the UK government embarked on a trial that saw the clocks move forward in March 1968 and not turn back until October 1971. In other words, for three years we had permanent British Summer Time (BST).
As part of the experiment, road casualty figures were collected during the morning (7-10am) and in the afternoon (4-7pm) in the two winters before the try-out (1966/67 and 1967/1968) and in the first two winters where BST was retained.
The data revealed that approximately 2,500 fewer people were killed and seriously injured during the winters of 1968/69 and 1969/70 compared to the previous two years. This represented a reduction of 11.7 per cent.
However, after 1971, the experiment was wound up and shelved. Yet every year, when the clocks change in the Autumn, we see an increase in the number of road deaths and collisions in the UK.
The daylight savings spike
Last year, according to statistics provided by the Department for Transport, pedestrian deaths as a result of road accidents rose from 36 in October, to 54 in November and 57 in December. The casualty rate for all road users increased from 427 per billion vehicle miles in October, to 479 per billion vehicle miles in November – we call this the daylight savings spike.
In 2018 a similar pattern emerged, with pedestrian fatalities as a result of road accidents rising from 40 in October, to 56 in November and 70 in December.
RoSPA believes we should maintain permanent British Summer Time to ensure lighter afternoons and evenings, because the road accident rate is higher later in the day. During the 1968-71 experiment, casualties did increase in the morning but the decrease in road accidents in the evening far outweighed this.