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More night driving is looming
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IT’S that time of the year again when the clocks go back an hour to signal the end of British summertime, but this year it signals even more of a wake-up call with the spread of LED street lighting and reduced illumination levels.

Does your work-related road risk policy deal with this clock change to manage the increased risks to your fleet, your drivers and other road users?

This Sunday, 25 October 2015, means an extra hour in bed for everyone but this date will signal more serious issues to concern fleet operators as day becomes night a lot earlier. Therefore, fleet operators and drivers are urged to be even more aware of other road users – whether they be drivers; cyclists or pedestrians.

Every year at this time there is a noticeable increase in the number of road traffic collisions and incidents.

Andrew Drewary, CMILT consultant collision analyst at 3Sixty Fleet, says: “Figures show a marked increase in the number of road traffic collisions and incidents in the first two weeks following this annual event.

“There are a number of issues that need to be considered why this happens, which can be covered by one question: Why should such a minor event in theory have such an effect on the number of road traffic collisions and incidents in such a short space of time?”

The main issues to consider are as follows:

  • The change in daylight hours happens at the end of the school run and at the start of the rush hour.
  • In the days immediately following the clock going back an hour, this will be the first time that many road users get to drive in the dark following the summer months. Suddenly from driving in daylight one day, many road users are driving in the dark the next.
  • Going back the hour at this time of year ‘literally’ changes the road layout for so many road users overnight. The roads they have been used to driving along in the daylight suddenly look different in the dark.
  • This leads to many road users questioning their perception and judgement of situations and they are suddenly driving outside of their comfort zone.

Drewary says: “What seems an insignificant event has a major effect on the driving ability and confidence of many roads users. Those who are nervous drivers become more nervous and those who are reasonably confident suddenly become less so until they have got used to the change in conditions.”

The main issue with the hour going back is perceived visibility. Although it could be a clear and dry night, suddenly driving with headlights on and streetlights being illuminated has an effect for many road users.

New LED streetlights not only have different illumination characteristics, lighting levels can be reduced at certain times in some areas, and the lights even turned off, to cut light pollution or simply save highways money.

At this time of year, poor weather conditions generally add to the problems of driving in the dark by severely restricting visibility.

There is the issue of many road users starting their journey with no headlights or bicycle lights illuminated because they have not had to turn them on for so long. In addition, the number of road users who do dress in dark and non-reflective clothing does not make the adjustment any easier.

Drewary continues: “The consequences in the main result in an increase in the number of minor collisions and incidents. Unfortunately, a number of these can be catastrophic or fatal.

“Therefore, it would be good practice to deal with this change as part of your company’s work-related road risk policy and have refresher training sessions with your drivers about the consequences of the hour going back and the extra precautions they should take.”

If you need advice and assistance in delivering these messages to your drivers, then you should seek the services of independent road risk experts and the road safety charity Brake.

They can run tailored driver behaviour workshops for you so you do not have to add to your transport manager’s duties. Although there is a cost associated to these workshops, the benefits can be substantial.

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