It’s an Autumn tradition as familiar as collecting conkers or lighting bonfires. However, for pedestrians, riders and drivers, putting our clocks back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) represents more than the inconvenience of darker evenings and winding back the clocks – in fact for many, it can be a matter of life and death.
As the end of British Summer Time approaches, the darker evenings and decreased visibility means that the roads become even more dangerous. Statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) show 1713 people were killed on Britains roads in 2013, with 46% of these ebing car occupants, so if you drive for work then GMT can be a real threat to your safety, with research showing that about 80 deaths and at least 200 serious injuries could be prevented every year if we moved to Single/Double Summer Time (SDST: GMT+1 in winter / GMT+2 in summer).
While RoSPA has campaigned for this switch for decades, for the time being darker evenings are a dangerous reality. With this in mind we have produced a short guide, specifically aimed at fleet managers and those who drive for work.
Prepare your vehicle
You should always ensure your vehicle is fully serviced and properly maintained, although this becomes particular important once the darker nights kick in. If you can’t have your vehicle serviced, then do your own checks. In particular, check:
- All lights – exterior and interior – are functioning correctly
- Windscreen, wiper blades and other windows are clean and the washer bottle filled with screen wash (dirty windows can further reduce visibility)
- Tyre condition, tread depth and pressure (of all the tyres, including the spare)
- Brakes are working well
- Fluids are kept topped up, especially windscreen wash, anti-freeze and oil
If you are driving a vehicle that is not your own, you should also take a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the controls.
Ideally you should try to arrange your journey so that you are travelling in the safest possible conditions. Obviously, this is not always possible, and it is therefore sensible to adapt your driving to the darker conditions. Things to consider include:
- Reduce your speed and keep it down
- Do not ‘hang on’ to the rear lights of the car in front as you will be too close to be able to brake safely
- Switch off distracting noises and open the window slightly so that you can listen for other traffic, especially at crossroads and junctions
- Anticipate the road ahead – look out for signs and scan the tops of hills for lights which could signal oncoming traffic
- Don’t use full beam in the face of oncoming drivers. Dip your headlights.Be especially careful when overtaking at night. Be sure you can see the road ahead is clear enough for you to complete the manoeuvre safely – if in doubt, hold back
Finally, make sure you plan your journey in advance and leave enough time – driving under pressure is dangerous at any time of day, let alone in the dark!
Consider Extra Training
New drivers are particularly vulnerable to changes in conditions, and even experienced road users can benefit from refresher training. RoSPA run a selection of driving courses that can help improve your driving, including:
- Driver Theory Workshop – An ideal opportunity for employers to ensure that all those who drive for work purposes understand the principles of defensive driving.
- Defensive Driving – A systematic approach to hazards and defensive driving techniques to minimise risk in the driving environment.
- On-road Risk Assessment and Training – Enhanced practical skills following a diagnosis of initial driver training needs.
Fleet managers should also be aware of the risk posed by their so-called Grey Fleet, ensuring they have the right policies and procedures in place to protect themselves should the worst happen.
For more information about RoSPA’s Lighter Evenings campaign, go to:
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