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Springing forward safely

 Published 26th March 2021
Driver Guides 

It’s just an hour so how can it can be so confusing? It’s not even a surprise. It does happen twice a year after all. Yet every time the clocks change millions of us spend half the day looking at the time with a look of dazed bemusement etched on our faces.

This is the worst one as well. At least when the clocks go back we get an extra hour in bed.

Yet strangely, we are all largely aware of the additional hazards of driving following the winter clock change, but we somehow assume the spring forward doesn’t affect us as much. When the clocks go forward or back the change in daylight hours and the disruption to sleep can cause problems for drivers.

Studies have shown an increase in road traffic accidents and related deaths the day after the clocks go forward. This is potentially caused by disruption to the sleep schedule, as we lose an extra hour in bed. People who get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night are more likely to cause a car accident than those who do.

Average speeds also increase immediately after the clocks go forward . Research has uncovered a potential link between the clocks being put forward and missed NHS appointments. With that lost hour, it’s likely that people are also missing other appointments, or simply running late. In that moment of panic when you realise that you’re late, it can be too easy to rush around trying to make up for lost time.

There are some benefits though.

While there may be an initial spike in accidents in the immediate aftermath of the clocks going forward, there is also research suggesting that British Summer Time is actually a safer time for our roads, with evidence suggesting that the increased hours of daylight mean that collisions are less of a risk, due to better visibility and road conditions.

Tips for driving after the clocks change for summer

  • It’s basically the same as winter, but in the morning rather than the evening. You’re more likely to experience sun strike heading east in rush hour in the morning. If the sun is blinding you, slow down and increase your following distance. You need to be able to stop in the distance of clear road you can see ahead of you.

  • You will lose an hour’s sleep when the clocks go forward so try adjusting your body clock as soon as possible to avoid being tired. It’s a good idea to take the lost hour into account before the clocks change; go to bed a little earlier than usual the night before, and in the days following.

  • If you’re driving a long distance in the days following the clock change it’s a good idea to factor in extra breaks and a ready supply of coffee. It’s within the first month of the clocks changing that the risks are slightly increased, and even more so within the first week. Bear in mind that you, and other drivers around you may be a bit more tired than usual for the few weeks afterwards.

  • To minimise your chances of accidental lateness, ensure all your clocks and watches are changed. It’s even worth doing it the night before, ahead of going to bed, to ensure you’re set for the change. Some modern cars will automatically update the time for you, but it’s worth double checking, just to be sure you’re driving with an accurate clock.

  • Keep your washer bottle filled. In winter it’s to clear rain and salt and mud and all the other stuff that gets kicked up off the road surface. As the weather improves you’re more likely to get dust on your windscreen which will diffract the sunlight making it difficult to see through the glare. Keeping your windscreen clean is a simple fix.

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