/ Health, Home & Energy

Do you agree with turning the clocks back?

Alarm clock

Time to turn the clocks back again and mess around with our sleeping patterns. But is this current system the right way of dealing with dark days or is there a better – and safer – alternative?

Is it just me who gets completely confused whenever the clocks change?

Every spring and autumn I have to do some childlike counting on my fingers to work out whether we get an extra hour’s sleep or, worse, lose an hour.

Campaigning for different daylight hours

Then I heard about the campaigns to get lighter days. Brilliant, I hate going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark… better show my support.

First off I found the 10:10 Lighter Later campaign. According to them, their proposition is simple: ‘We shift the clocks forward by one hour throughout the entire year. We would still put the clocks forward in spring and back in autumn, but we would have moved an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.’

Then there’s the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), calling for a system called ‘Single/Double Summer Time’ (SDST), which would put the clocks one hour ahead of GMT in winter and two hours ahead in summer.

Now I’m more confused than I was to start with. Is this just two different ways of explaining the same thing? Judging by the ‘Supporting 10:10 Lighter Later’ logo on RoSPA’s site, I guess so.

What are the benefits of SDST?

So what’s my little rant got to do with consumers? Well, stats out this week from Santander suggest a quarter of us feel more at risk of personal injury and burglary when the nights get darker. RoSPA reckons that a move to SDST could reduce road deaths by around 80%, as well as cutting carbon emissions by 450,000 tonnes each year.

The subject of the environment has also been picked up by Dr Elizabeth Garnsey, a Cambridge academic. She found that we’re wasting about six gigawatts of energy per day in winter because we wake up after it gets light in the morning and then light dark houses in the evening.

Her calculations are coming before a Private Member’s Bill to adjust Britain’s time to SDST. It’s due for a second reading in December and already has backing from sporting and environment organisations.

So could changing the current system really make our lives safer, more environmentally-friendly and our bills cheaper? The arguments have convinced me – anything that makes winter nights a bit lighter and safer is good in book. Still, I remain confused about how it all works, so anyone who can help me fathom out the difference between all these proposals, please speak up…


I am in favour of bringing the clocks forward to have more daylight available in both winter and summer. I am aware that some industries claim that they will be affected, especially farming. However, no one insists that they perform their tasks at a set time, cows do need to be milked regularly, but this can and should be done at a time to suit the milker and the cows. As the milk will be collected and processed over a period of time there is NO reason for it to be done according to some clock based schedule. I am well aware that in the far north issues can be created, but the far north has most of those issues of reduced daylight BECAUSE it is in the far north. If they have a real issue then local adjustments are a reasonable and sensible answer.
Does a school child really need to go to school in place A at the same instant that a school child in place B? Or would it be better for both A and B to set their school start times according to local and real parental needs?
For the rest the reduction in hazards casualties and deaths along, increased time for activities and environmental savings are all benefits that were shown last time that this was tried.

Leave it as it is. Perhaps we should have a referendum on it and on many other issues rather than the government impose these things on us??

I’m with brat673, at least in terms of NOT having something imposed upon us without knowing what the majority of the population want.

As for the SDST and other alternatives to plain, simple, BST, I agree with many of the benefits cited and on a very personal level I like the idea of lighter evenings, but I very much dislike the idea of the mornings being even darker than they are under the current system. Take today as an example. The last day of BST for 2010 and dawn broke around 7:00 a.m. with light at a useful level by around 8:00 (admittedly it was cloudy). On a working day I am heading out for a bus by 06:40 and travel is exceedingly depressing and dangerous on darker mornings. Under the SDST proposal BST would (in effect) last all winter, meaning that by the shortest day (Dec 21st) people working similar hours to me would not only leave home in pitch dark (akin to the middle for the night) but also arrive at work in the pitch dark. I can’t see how that is safer, especially on icy mornings?

One thing that I do dislike about ANY change to the current system though: if a change is made we will have yet another deluge of perfectly serviceable appliances being thrown away and yet another artificial increase in sales of new items, because so many items these days have built in clocks and in an attempt to make them more user-friendly so many are now pre-programmed with the automatic adjustment to and from BST for anything up to the next 50 years (Roberts’ Radio Alarm clocks being one example and a great many Microwaves being another. Perhaps the most significant example for almost all households will be Central Heating and Boiler control units, many of which are built into modern boilers).

As for the argument that we lose / gain an hour’s sleep twice a year: get real! Any one who cannot cope with one hour less sleep, or adjust their going to bed time by one hour, once a year is rather pathetic in my opinion: we all have to deal with issues of gargantuan proportions in comparison to that every day of our lives both at home and at work: I think we need to bear that in mind when making emotive complaints about 60 minutes of shut-eye!

Of course, although well before my time, we did have a sort of double summer time in the war and everyone seemed to be OK with it then (including farmers and the far north of Scotland), so perhaps I and other ambivalent people should just accept that too?

On balance my own view is that we should stick to what we have now.

As I have now been retired for many years, this question has little relevance for me personally, however I do recall the experiment which took place in the early nineteen seventies (I think) and was dropped after a little while.
While it might have been better for London and the home counties, here in north west England it was noticeable that roads, particularly in suburban and semi-rural areas, were iced up well into the morning rush hour. In the evenings, however, icing does not currently occur until past the rush hour and accidents due to icy roads are thus more likely to occur if the proposals are put into place.
It seems that it may be a question of benefit for the South-east versus disbenefit for the North and I think we all know how that will go!

I’m with brat673, too – I don’t think the country revolves around the south. As already mentioned the experiment was tried in the 70’s and didn’t work then.

If a company wants to work in time with Europe – I don’t mind – Let them change or keep their clocks and live their lives to their clocks.

I like the traditional system – works well.

pickle says:
31 October 2010

I think the whole idea of fiddling with the clocks is just crazy – there should be one time all the year. After all if you move the clocks one way the mornings are dark and if you go the other wat the evenings are dark. Either way you get a dark period for nearly half a day and someone will say it is dangerous for the kids to get to school etc. etc.and the farmers complain.
Surely we have to get used to the dark sometime and adjust our behavour accordingly.

I’ve never lived in a time when we had just GMT (or just BST for that matter) all year round (I don’t think any one living can have can they?) but unless actually living by one time all year is tried and reveals some unexpected and significant problems then I agree completely with Pickle.

Keeping the status quo seems to me to be the best alternative that anyone has yet lived with and used though.

TriniMe says:
4 February 2017

I totally agree with Pickle. Indeed there is a very simple solution that would suit everyone – although when I broached it to my MP he couldn’t understand the concept which is – change the time that you work not the clocks. So here’s how it will work. In March when the clocks “spring forward”, 08:00 becomes 09:00 – but in GMT terms it is still 08:00 – so why not just leave the clocks as they are and just start work, farming, school et cetera at 08:00 instead. This will also save quite a bit of money having to constantly adjust public clocks, and avoid what happened with the banking system a few years ago. I work within the housing association environment and it cost us a pretty penny every year having to adjust the time clocks for blocks of flats with the older door entry systems twice a year.

Phil says:
31 October 2010

This country did do away with daylight saving sometime in the 1960s (I think) and for whatever reasons it wasn’t a great success. What would be the point of repeating the exercise?

Robert Smith says:
31 October 2010

Whatever parliament decides we will ALWAYS alter the clocks twice in any 12 months. The argument is whether we stick with GMT or move with the times and try to become better Europeans and use Central European Time. After all Norway uses CET and moves their clocks twice a year even though the southern tip of Norway is as far north as the top of Scotland and the top of Norway is well inside the Arctic Circle.
How do you think Chile copes or Russia or Canada? All 3 of these countries have a north/south distance of almost 2000 miles and they still move their clocks twice a year. Some of you may think “well let Chile or Canada get on with it” That is how I feel about the 10% of the population who live north of the border. If they want to keep to a different time it is their choice, after all they have their own parliament. The truth is, of course, is that over 50% of Scots want CET so as to get lighter mornings. It is in different in Arizona. The USA moves it’s clocks twice a year except dear Arizona which does not change it’s clocks at all. So if you want to drive from Texas to California through Arizona not only do you have to change from Central to Pacific time, you also, during the winter, have to change from winter time to summer time and back to winter time, [or whatever they call it].
Whether darker mornings cause more road accidents or not will always be open to question. Exactly the opposite is the argument for lighter evenings. It could be that the Scots are not such good drivers but that is another question.
Personally I would much rather use as much daylight as I can and that means lighter evenings.
There is also the question about the east/west movement of time with sunrise in the west of Wales being some 20 minutes later than London. Any time zone faces the same problem. Daylight is about 2 hours later on the western edge of a time zone but you don’t hear many arguments about it from Australia or Russia or Canada.
Perhaps the English disease of constantly whining about almost anything has spread to the Scots and the Welsh although the Irish don’t appear to be saying much.
I really do hope that parliament changes from GMT to CET permanently and not for another stupid trial as they did in the 60’s.
However you can only hope and prey.
For the correspondent who has to work it out on his fingers the old American adage is good. Fall back in the fall and spring forward in the spring. There that wasn’t so difficult was it.

Well said Robert!

Personally *my* best use of daylight hours is to have lighter MORNINGS, not evenings, but that is just what suits me and lighter evening is what suits you.

In every other respect I am in absolute agreement with you. (Especially in being incredulous that anyone has to use fingers to work out what to do – perhaps that is an indicator of poor elementary education, in the same way as so many people can’t recall the dates of the equinoxes throughout the year?)

All comments are very interesting. Just to throw another one into the barrel there are studies that say that reduced amounts of sunlight in a persons life can lead to depression, as someone who is stuck in an office all day I would appreciate a bit of extra day light on my way home. I’m from Australia and it wasn’t until last winter ended that I finally realised just how true the research is, I had been feeling down for months, and as soon as the afternoons got lighter, my mood lifted. It’s just a general observation that Londoners get more moody in the winter, or maybe that’s just the hot and crowded tubes, who knows, but at this point anything is worth is try!

Sophie Gilbert says:
1 November 2010

You can’t please all of the people all of the time, no matter what time you make it.

I would have thought that not constantly moving clocks forward or back would make things easier for everyone in the long run. This will never happen, but the whole world could move its clocks forward by just half an hour this spring and leave them at that!…

Martin Andrews says:
7 January 2011

I agree, Sophie. I’ve been saying this for years.

There seems to be substantial evidence that shifting to double summer time would:
(a) save lives
(b) save energy and hence reduce carbon emissions.
I mean scientific evidence, not just opinion, and sometimes evidence flies in the face of what seems common sense (as in some of the arguments above).
Of course, if you think the evidence is wrong or incomplete then you should argue about the methodology and propose alternatives.
Individually, we all have preferences, although on balance it seems most people prefer the move to double summer time.
However, even if we aren’t keen on shifting, and assuming the evidence is sound, are saving lives and saving energy worth some personal inconvenience?

Mark Williams says:
23 December 2010

We’ve already changed the system a few years ago to be “in line with Europe”. BST used to start earlier in the year and finish later in the year. We now have a situation when there is more “wasted” daylight in the mornings for most of us and it is getting dark on the way home.

I don’t agree with SDST, which will leave it much too dark in the mornings during the winter but would prefer going back to the old system when we have a much shorter period of GMT, only over the darkest 3-4 months.

Linda says:
3 February 2011

Having been brought up in Scotland I was used to walking to and from school in the dark with only street lights to help me cross the road As you see I survived but the roads were no tnearly as busy as they are nowadays. I also had to sit in a shadow at school as the lighting was not evenly distributed throughout the class.. As you see I managed but it could have been a more comfortable situation.
I now live in Northumberland and find children cycle mornings and evenings and rarely show a light. If we had more daylight we would save lives and save on energy costs for lighting and heating.
I jnow of schools who have to alternate their hours to suit the tides so children can come across a causway while it is open, so if a school with this situation can adjust to fit why can’t others?

Sally says:
6 February 2011

Why is 8-9 am the chosen time for beginning school and work in the UK? Why don’t we adjust our working start times to say 6-7am and then we have access to daylight at the end of a normal working day whatever the season. There will always be a darker time of year but stop thinking of it as a “time/daylight problem” – accept and rethink our working/ living patterns. Get up earlier, work then play! If we are going to try and fight nature let’s do it in a creative way.

Sorry disagree – I get up at 5 to get my tasks done before I start work at 9 – This would mean getting up at 2 to start at at 6 – If you really think I can clean unlit stables and kennels in the dark then you are wrong. I do not want to play when I get home either. So I’d spend a lot of the year in the dark – At the moment it is couple of hours a day – and this is the worst time of year.

The reason for the time differences was to allow farmers to utilise time effectively.- I personally want to keep it that way.

I am tired of the expression “in line with Europe”, which crops up in many places, both in this Conversation and frequently in the media.

May I point out that mainland Europe uses not one but four time zones. These range from Moscow, three hours ahead of GMT, to Lisbon, which uses GMT, same as UK. Let’s have the facts clearly recognised.

And Portugal did adopt Single-Double-Summertime in the early 1990s. It was not successful. Portugal went back to the same time standard that we use. We need to ask why it could work for us if it did not work for Portugal.

I really don’t mind which end of the day is darker or lighter so long as the clocks don’t change. as a migraine sufferer each time the clocks change and my sleeping pattern changes the migraines increase for a couple of weeks.
I am also a nurse and work 12 hour shifts. My starting time is 6.45am so I get up at around 5.30am. After the clocks moved forward my body thought I’d got up at 4.30am, I then worked a 12 hour shift in an intensive care area alongside all the other health professionals who’d got up around the same time. I’d be interested to know how safe we were, by the end of the shift, which just happened to be a very busy one, I was exhausted – far more tired than ever I usually am after a hard day. Are any stats collected re how many errors are made in hospitals and other vital areas when people have their sleep patterns disrupted in this way?

another way is to have a single time system.

then locally decide working hours, school times, shop times etc.

better still just have global time – same time everywhere on the planet.

people would soon get used to it.

this i think already is the case with the military who cant mess about with time zone nonsense.