To understand this better we need to give some context to ‘daylight saving’ – an idea that first emerged in the early 1900s. At this time it was proposed by a prominent member of the construction industry, who when going to work early one sunny summer morning noticed how many blinds were still down in houses ‘wasting daylight’.

This individual then compiled a report that proposed the clocks we be advanced by 20 minutes at 2am on successive Sundays in April and then reversed in September (80minutes in total). It was considered lighter evenings would be good for recreational activities, save lighting costs and bring economic benefits (at that time it was not considered to impact on road safety), however despite strong campaigning and parliamentary support it was only the outbreak of the First World War and the need to save coal that a bill was passed during 1916 and the clock change of one hour came about[1].

During the Second World War British Double Summertime[2] was introduced as an energy saving measure again and to bring the UK in line with the European theatre of war. When the war ended the country returned to BST.

There were no further changes expect for a three-year experiment from 1968-1971 where clocks were set throughout the year at GMT plus one hour (three years of constant BST). During this time road casualty numbers were collected in the morning (7-10am) and evenings (4-7pm) and compared to the previous two winters prior to the 1968 introduction.

The information collected indicated a reduction in casualty numbers, however due to political pressure (sunrise in Northern Scotland was not happening until 10am), the introduction of the 70mph speed limit and roadside breath testing meant a robust case could not be made for the permanent BST. Although casualties increased in the morning the decrease in evening outweighed this. Despite this MPs voted to return to the pre-1968 system that is still with us to the present day.

The benefits or otherwise accrued by this change have been the subject of great debate right up to the present day. A YouGov poll in 2019 found that 59% of British people would prefer BST all year round. However, there are many factors that have to be considered particularly economic (hospitality and leisure) and health benefits following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Road Safety GB supports efforts to change to Double British Summer Time giving an extra hour of daylight for people driving home from work and walking home from school during the winter months. We do however understand that the matter will not be judged purely on casualty reduction but on a wide range of economic and social issues particularly in the years ahead as we emerge from the global pandemic.

Nevertheless, we will fully support any future proposals brought forward on this issue that will directly reduce the number of crashes on our roads.

[1] British Summer Time (BST) one hour ahead (forward) of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) then reverting to GMT in the autumn when clocks went ‘back’ by one hour.

[2] Clocks go forward 2 hours ahead of GMT in Spring and went back 1 hour in the Autumn (1 hour ahead of GMT)

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