More than eight in 10 (83%) van drivers feel more tired in the autumn and winter compared to summer, with 45% admitting they suffer from low mood more in the darker, colder winter months, according to new research from Mercedes-Benz Vans.
Published ahead of the clocks going back this Sunday, the research finds that 40% of van drivers said they suffered from fatigue as a result of the autumn clock changes, with nearly half confessing to nearly fallen asleep at the wheel (48%).
According to the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer, which monitors the opinions on more than 2,000 people in van community, nearly one in three (30%) said they suffer from symptoms akin to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in winter.
The results showed a significant difference between those who spend more time on the road, with 61% of those who spend more than 50 hours of their working week in their van feeling more fatigued in winter, compared to 41% of those who work between 15 and 20 hours a week in their van.
The most common method in the van community to alleviate tiredness when driving is by taking a break, cited by 62%, followed by winding down a window (58%).
Steve Bridge, managing director, Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, said: “Although no one should be afraid to drive during the darkness of a winters’ morning or evening, it is something that requires extra consideration before even setting out on the road. The hard-working van community is not immune from the impact of SAD or increased isolation during the winter months, so during this period of the clocks changing, we’re determined to raise awareness of just how tiring it can be on both physical and mental health this of year.”
The issue of the autumn clock changes also continues to come under focus from RoSPA, which says British Summer Time (BST) should be maintained all year round to save lives, in particular for vulnerable road users.
RoSPA is backing up its calls by providing evidence, including to a House of Lords inquiry into the European Commission’s proposal to end seasonal changes of time in the EU – of a three-year experiment carried out in 1968 showed that thousands of lives could be saved by scrapping the autumn clock change.
The experiment saw the clocks brought forward in March that year and not turned back until October 1971. Road casualty figures were collected during the morning (7-10am) and in the afternoon (4-7pm) in the two winters before the project (1966/67 and 1967/1968) and in the first two winters where BST was retained.
The data revealed that approximately 2,500 fewer people were killed and seriously injured during the winters of 1968/69 and 1969/70 compared to the previous two years; equating to a reduction of 11.7%.
More recently, the RAC Foundation looked at the road casualty data from 2012-2017 for two weeks either side of the clock change. It found in the spring there is a slight fall in the number of causalities, but the October change sees an average increase of 278 collisions – a increase of 5.1%.
According to statistics provided by the Department for Transport, in 2018 pedestrian deaths in Britain rose from 40 in October, to 56 in November and 70 in December. The casualty rate for all road users increased from 490 per billion vehicle miles in October, to 523 per billion vehicle miles in November.
RoSPA’s chief executive Errol Taylor said: “Each year, when the clocks go back in the autumn, there is a marked spike in the number of vulnerable road users killed and seriously injured.
“From the 1968-1971 experiment, we know we can reduce accidents, particularly those involving child pedestrians, by having lighter afternoons and evenings throughout the year. So the question remains, why aren’t we doing this now?”