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Sunday, October 31, 1999 Published at 11:20 GMT


Warning to motorists as clocks go back

Campaigners want to prolong British Summer Time

As the clocks go back in the UK this weekend, there are fresh warnings of a rise in car accidents and increased demands to end the biannual time change.

Campaigners, who include the Tory candidate for Mayor of London Lord Archer, want to keep British Summer Time.

The darker evenings caused by the clocks being turned back an hour have been singled out as the biggest factor in the rise in vehicle accidents seen every November.

The BBC's Linda Duffin: "Car and pedestrian accidents peak in October and November"
The Daylight Extra Now group says if the UK had British Summer Time all year around, the increased daylight in the evening would prevent up to 140 road deaths and 2,000 injuries a year.

Last year, the government's Transport Research Laboratory said the practice of turning the clocks back had led to 3,000 deaths on Britain's roads in the last 30 years.

[ image: Campaigners say there would be fewer accidents]
Campaigners say there would be fewer accidents
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said drivers should take time and effort to cope with the changing conditions.

Motorists should sit in their cars for a while before moving off so they can adjust their eyes to the dark, watch their speeds, check their lights and be aware of vulnerable road users, the society said.

Parents should ensure children wear bright clothing, preferably with reflective or fluorescent strips.

Time for a change?

Other critics have campaigned on economic grounds for the abolition of the time change, which gives people an extra hour of daylight on winter mornings.

[ image: Lord Archer: Says he will bring the failed bill back]
Lord Archer: Says he will bring the failed bill back
The London Chamber of Commerce estimates million of pounds would be saved by bringing British time into line with western European nations.

This would mean the UK would stay one hour ahead of GMT in winter and two hours ahead in summer.

Although pressure to change Britain's current time practices remains strong, there remains strong opposition from certain sections of society.

Farmers, who need to make the most of daylight, have lobbied against any change to the system, as have Scottish MPs who say the change would leave the Highlands in the dark until mid-morning in winter.

Earlier this year Lord Archer backed a bill which would have allowed Scotland, England and Wales to create their own time zones.

The Time Zones and Summer Time (Devolution) Bill, which failed because of lack of parliamentary time, would mean England and Wales could remain on British Summer Time all year round, in line with Europe, while Scotland continues to switch to Greenwich Mean Time in winter.

England and Scotland were in different time zones until 1888, when harmonisation was prompted by the need to synchronise times for the railway timetables.

A brief history of Summertime

The idea of British Summer Time was dreamed up in 1906 by William Willett, a Surrey-born builder who believed it would be helpful to maximise and standardise daylight hours.

He believed people woke up quicker and in better spirits when it was light, and suffer relatively little as the nights drew in.

Mr Willett also argued it would save the country £2m a year in fuel costs.

His first idea, an advance of 80 minutes rather than an hour, brought forward in four moves of 20 minutes each, was met with ridicule and derision.

Many were determined to stick to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which had been in existence for 25 years but had only just been adopted nationally.

Railways mounted some of the toughest opposition to daylight saving, arguing time changes and a deviation from GMT could lead to more accidents.

Mr Willett campaigned hard, and eventually the first Daylight Saving Bill was introduced in 1908. It was thrown out, as were two further attempts in 1909 and 1911.

It finally became law in 1916, as a wartime measure because of an acute coal shortage.

It then continued long after the war, and in 1925 it was made permanent by the British Summertime Act.

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