Sunday, 29 October 2006

The real cost of an extra hour in bed

The First Post:
The clocks going back is not just an inconvenience, it kills people says robert matthews

By Sunday there will be no mistaking the arrival of winter. At 2am, the nation's clocks go back an hour, condemning us to months of dark evenings - so that Scottish farmers can see their cows first thing in the morning.

The convenience of farmers is doubtless a worthy cause, but it loses some of its lustre when balanced against 450 deaths and serious injuries on UK roads. For that is the toll statisticians attribute to accidents caused by the darker evenings.

The bizarre story of how governments came to accept hundreds of road casualties in exchange for placating farmers has its origins in the late 1960s. In a three-year experiment, begun in October 1968, Britain's clocks were left on British Summer Time (BST), while statisticians monitored the effect that this

would have on road casualty figures. As the winter wore on, the mornings became ever darker. And so did news bulletins, which carried ever more reports of children being mown down by juggernauts as they walked to school in the gloom. Ministers made clear they had had enough even before the official end of the experiment in 1971.

The statistics later confirmed there had indeed been a rise in road casualties in the darker mornings. But they also revealed a far larger fall in casualties during the evenings. In short, leaving the clocks alone had saved the lives of several hundred people.

The problem was that no one could identify who these people were. On the other hand, the media had no trouble identifying parents whose offspring had been flattened.

To this day, no government has had the guts to keep us on BST and see off the inevitable sob stories with hard facts. The result has been thousands of avoidable deaths on the roads - and all in the name of farmers who can't be fagged to buy a torch.

Well, I have always understood BST to be the anamoly - clocks being put forward in the summer, which is why it is called British Summer Time.

Benjamin Franklin: Benjamin Franklin, living in Paris, first conceived the notion of rising closer to sunrise to make better use of sunlight. Imagine, he said, how many candles could be saved if people awakened earlier. He never proposed putting the clocks forward, but he whimsically suggested firing cannons in each square at dawn "to wake the sluggards and open their eyes to their true interest."

William Willett: British builder William Willett was up early each morning for his daily pre-breakfast horseback ride. He lamented that few people were enjoying the "best part of a summer day". Reflecting on this distressing waste of daylight, in 1905 a revolutionary idea came to him: putting the clocks forward in summer to save daylight. This would take advantage of the bright beautiful mornings and give more light in the evening, and yet not change anyone’s normal waking hour. Thus was born the idea of daylight saving time. More:

So we have to suffer these idiotic time changes twice a year because of the whims of a couple of eccentrics. Personally, my body clock never reacts favourably to BST - so if anybody wants to enjoy the best part of a summer day then let them set their alarm an hour earlier. I cannot see the problem about needing extra daylight for getting to and from work etc because we have modern street lighting/house lighting/workplace lighting - after all we are in the 21st century now, we are not burning candles any longer. WAKE UP PEOPLE! - this is NOT the dark ages, get with the program. ABOLISH BST!