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Are you ready to go back in time?

 Published 25th October 2021
Driver Guides  General Guides 

Well, we're here again. It may only happen twice yearly, but it feels like it's every 5 minutes, although that might be just a symptom of advancing age. Nevertheless, it's that time of year when we all get to enjoy an extra hour in bed.

When the clocks go back at the end of October that's usually the first thing most of us think about: snuggling up in bed for a bit longer.

But there's a less cuddly aspect to the clock change.

Every autumn there is a distinct spike in the number of vulnerable road users killed and seriously injured. That means that every time the clocks go back, the number of deaths and injuries goes up. Every year sees a sudden increase in the figures from October through to December. Each one of those months can see an extra 20 to 30 people dead or seriously injured but who might have made it home safely a few weeks earlier.

The autumn clock change plunges many journeys into darkness literally overnight. Analysis has shown accident rates among motorists driving between 5-8pm in the weeks directly following the October clock change can increase by upwards of 30%.

The clock change brings with it a number of challenging driving conditions beyond the reduced daylight

The onset of rainy and wet conditions, dazzling from headlights, wet leaves, reduced visibility and not driving to the road conditions all impact on accident rates. At the same time, other factors such as lower levels of alertness for motorists, inexperienced drivers, and children's tendency to take their time wandering home from a busy day in school can all have an impact.

Nobody is immune to the additional risk either. Male drivers are 37% more likely to be involved in an accident. Female drivers see a 30% increase in accidents in the ‘home time' rush hour after the clocks change. Young drivers who speed at night are three times more likely to have an accident than those who speed during the day.

Even an accident of geography can have an impact on your chances of being involved in an accident on the road. Scotland, Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the Northern counties have the highest increase in accidents between the hours of 5-8pm after the clock change at 50%, 49% and 46% respectively. We might not live on the largest island in the world, but even a couple of hundred miles North or South can have a dramatic impact on the time the sun dips below the horizon. You can see the difference as you head South, with a 35% increase in accidents in Wales and 34% in the Southern counties.

Having said that, it doesn't seem to matter who you are or where you live, the risks of having an accident increase when road conditions are poorly lit, wet, and slippery.

So, how can you minimise the additional risk and make sure you make it home safe and sound?

There are a few simple precautions you can take to make sure you get the benefits of the clock change without any of the unpleasant consequences.

- Drive below the speed limit to give yourself more time to react to things like cyclists without lights, pedestrians in dark clothing.

- Don't dazzle other drivers: keep your lights clean and turn your headlights on before sunset. Keep your interior light off and avoid leaving your main beams on. If you need to turn on your fog lights at any point make sure you turn them off again when they are no longer needed.

- Keep your windscreen clean to avoid increased glare and prevent you being dazzled by oncoming vehicles.

- Slow down: reduce speed to correspond to the amount of water on the road, as heavy rainfall leaves roads wet and slippery which reduces tyre grip and increases the risk of skidding, even for careful drivers

- Avoid hard braking and turning sharply for better control of the vehicle and to avoid wheel locking

- Hang back: allow ample stopping distance between the cars in front as stopping distances are doubled on wet roads. Motorists should be at least four seconds behind the car in front; 10 seconds when driving on icy road surfaces.

Follow these simple rules and the only thing you will have to worry about when the clocks change is what to have for breakfast after your extra hour in bed.

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