24 Mar Why Do We Put The Clocks Forward In Spring?
Why Do We Put The Clocks Forward In Spring?
Spring is here and the clocks go forward on Sunday. Six months of long light evenings to look forward to as we emerge from our winter hibernations and thoughts turn to BBQs, nights in the pub garden and hopefully some much needed sunshine. But why do we move the clocks back and forward? Well, on the 101st anniversary of the system let’s have a look at the history.
The Waste of Daylight
The idea of British Summer Time (BST) or Daylight Saving Time (DST) was put forward in 1907 by a builder named William Willett (coincidently the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay singer Chris Martin) who, it has been said, was motivated by the idea of being able to play golf for longer in the evenings. His pamphlet “The Waste of Daylight” was aimed at getting people (workers) out of bed to make the most of the daylight hours.
However, at the time Willet’s proposals ruffled the establishment with the British Horological Institute (BHI) saying it would be “wicked” for a country that had Greenwich Mean Time as a global benchmark to “destroy the unanimity” that the rest of the world relied on.
The First World War
Unfortunately Willet died in 1915 without seeing his ideas come to fruition and it wasn’t until 1916 that Germany adopted the idea of Daylight Savings Time in order to expand the opening times of its munitions factories as part of the war effort. Britain followed suit a month later in April 1916 arguing that at a time when more supplies were needed to fight the Great War, this system which created longer daylight hours would reduce coal consumption.
Pros and Cons
The thing is, today we don’t really need to save energy for the war and the notion that we’re getting more daylight is incorrect in as much as we’re really only adapting the hours to suit our working days. There is some division as to where we go from here with a 2011 YouGov poll finding that 53% of UK citizens would be happy having BST all year round. However, the Scots were critical of the idea with the then First Minister, Alex Salmond, suggesting it was an attempt to “plunge Scotland into morning darkness”. His argument being that in some of the northernmost parts of the country it would remain dark until late in the morning.
On the other hand, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) puts forward that the longer dark hours of early evening under GMT poses a safety risk on the roads. Speaking to the Daily Express, Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety, said: “Child pedestrians are particularly vulnerable during the afternoon school run, when they digress on their way home and so are exposed to traffic risk for longer than their morning trip to school.
“During that period motorists are also tired after the day’s work, concentration levels are low, and journey times are increased due to shopping and social trips.
“For these reasons, increased evening daylight would produce significant results in preventing accidents to children and other road users.”
Moreover, a study of 23,000 children that was published by the BBC in 2014 concluded that the extra daylight brought by BST was responsible for a 15% to 20% higher activity level and was therefore beneficial to their health.
BST also has a positive impact on business as the clocks moving forward an hour brings Britain in line with the rest of Europe with regard to office hours meaning there are more hours in the day to communicate and prosper. Tourism too benefits from lighter evenings with the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions claiming in 2011 that year round BST would rake in an extra £2.5bn – £3bn per annum.
So it really is a mixed bag of pros and cons but one thing’s for sure – this coming Sunday night you’re going to lose an hour of lovely, cosy sleep.