Posts tagged ‘autumn’

17 January, 2012

Help us to champion the case for lighter evenings

Time is running out – it’s official. On Friday, January 20, MPs will vote in the House of Commons on whether to back the Daylight Saving Bill. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents believes that a “yes” vote could bring benefits to all. So what are we waiting for?

clock ticking down the minutes Daylight Saving Bill

The clock is ticking on the Daylight Saving Bill

A move to Single/Double Summer Time (GMT+1 in winter / GMT+2 in summer) would certainly be a good place to start in helping to make the UK’s road users significantly safer. Extra evening daylight protects vulnerable road users like children, the elderly, cyclists and motorcyclists, by making them more visible to motorists. And at the end of the working day, motorists’ concentration levels are often a lot lower, so a bit more afternoon/early evening light – especially in the winter – would help to lower the risk of an accident. It is therefore credible to suggest that any increase in casualties in the morning during the winter months would be outweighed by the reduction in casualties in the evenings – thanks to an hour of extra daylight.

Friday marks the third reading of the Bill, which passed its second reading in December 2010 with a huge majority. This feat means the push for lighter evenings is closer to succeeding now than at any time since 1970 – and our recent online opinion poll showed that 92 per cent of respondents supported the call for lighter evenings. The most recent research carried out by the Department for Transport showed that a move to SDST could reduce road deaths by around 80 per year and serious injuries by around 200 per year. There are also a host of other benefits to be had as a result of the proposed changes, with independent studies showing that a move to SDST would:

  • Cut CO2 emissions by 447,000 tonnes a year by reducing the need for electric lighting in the evenings
  • Provide a £3.5bn boost to British leisure and tourism, creating up to 80,000 new jobs in the sector
  • Reduce levels of obesity by allowing for more outdoor sport in the evenings
  • Relieve the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and similar conditions
  • Reduce crime and the fear of crime (especially among the elderly).

    Sunset over House of Commons Daylight Saving Bill

    The all important vote will take place in the House of Commons on January 20, 2012.

This whole debate begs the question: What would you do with an extra hour of evening daylight? You could kick-start that exercise regime, go cycling, open up your business for longer, enjoy a family moment, mow the grass – and that’s just for starters. It is also worth mentioning, that at this stage, RoSPA is calling for more evidence for giving the UK its extra hour of evening daylight. The world has changed a great deal since the last experiment, which ran from 1968-71, when British Standard Time (GMT + 1) was employed all year round. Now it’s time to gain a fresh perspective for the 21st century. Tourism chiefs in the Lake District are the latest to champion the Bill which they say will boost business, allowing attractions to stay open for longer and providing an opportunity to extend the tourism season. It’s a win-win!

So, over to you MPs – the ball is in your court. The nation is talking (and debating) on this matter. Is it not time to take a leap into the light? Whatever your view may be, here are a few thoughts and feelings from staff and students at the University of Birmingham to get you thinking:

 

To find out more and register support for RoSPA’s campaign, visit www.rospa.com/lighterevenings/

Charlotte Hester, RoSPA’s press officer/web editor

11 October, 2011

Lighting Up Time

Since I started to learn about the daylight saving issue some five years ago, I have racked my brain to think of any other government measure that would improve the lives of everyone in the UK, at no cost, and I just can’t think of one. It would make us:

  • Healthier – because we would have more evening daylight to take exercise and be outside
  • Wealthier – because we would save money on electricity, inject £3billion into the economy through tourism and create 60,000 new jobs (if ever we needed that fillip, now is the time)
  • More secure – because our elderly would have an hour shorter winter “curfew” and evening crime would fall
  • Safer – because 80 lives would be saved on the roads per year and 212 serious injuries avoided
  • Greener – because we would reduce our carbon emissions by 450,000 tons per year, equivalent to 85 per cent of all the renewable energy we currently generate, enough to power two-thirds of Glasgow
  • Happier – because it is uplifting to have more evening daylight, just as it is depressing to have less.

Never has an idea offered so much potential to benefit so many and yet been repeatedly stifled by so few. Even in Scotland, where opposition is traditionally strongest, public opinion is no longer against it – and yet it still does not happen.

Lighter evenings are good for all

At a time of extraordinary government spending cuts, you would think that politicians would read the 2009 Department for Transport report which showed that the implementation of this measure would cost the department £5million but save £138million that year and every year thereafter. Multiplied across government departments and local authorities, we could surely be shaving billions off the public budget, and saving many jobs.

And yet Rebecca Harris’s (MP for Castle Point) Private Members’ Bill, which seeks to define that impact (just measure the costs and benefits within government and only implement the changes, on a trial basis, if the evidence supports it), is grinding through Parliament as though the machinery of the state is deliberately thwarting its progress.

The truth is that no UK party seems willing to risk its Scottish vote by promoting this issue, not least because there is clearly some goading from north of the border. Try to impose this on Scotland, they imagine, and the nationalists will whip up anti-English/Union fervour such that the three “main” parties would have an unwelcome fight on their hands, which may weaken their share of the vote, especially while talk of a referendum is rife. Leave well alone, they assess, and their political foes will have one less divisive issue to trumpet.

So we may as well say it for what it is: A political calculation at a senior level taking away these potential benefits from 60million people, so that party electoral stability, and the (notional) strength of the Union, can be protected, or at least not put to the test.

For us in the 60million and for the 128 MPs who voted for this Bill at its second reading (bravo to them and if it ever came to a truly “free” vote, that number would probably quadruple), it is just shameful evidence of a hidden hand of manipulative control at the top.

And if I read angry, it’s because that deliberate obfuscation has cost the lives of more than 5,000 people and resulted in the serious injury of more than 30,000 people in our country, since the 1968-71 experiment proved that it would work. The word “shameful” seems incredibly measured and desperately inadequate.

Surely the cohesion of the Union, a far more strategic issue, should be decoupled from this simple, straightforward attempt to improve the quality of life of everyone in the UK? The Prime Minister laudably argued in Manchester last week that the most important quality in politics is leadership. Here is an opportunity for him to show us what it looks like.

Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA’s chief executive

For more information about our lighter evenings campaign, visit our campaign website – and please sign up to support the cause! http://www.rospa.com/about/currentcampaigns/lighter-evenings/default.aspx

1 September, 2011

The not-so-noble gas that kills

At this time of the year our attention turns to the prospect of long dark nights. And when the clocks fall back an hour, many of us think about turning up the central heating and start to enjoy the prospect of sitting beside a glowing fire while watching our favourite programme on television.

Everyone’s focus tends to be on the children starting or returning to school or students moving into digs – but how many spare a thought for the last time fuel-burning appliances, chimneys and flues were serviced and cleaned?

RoSPA continues to raise awareness of home safety throughout the year to the people of Northern Ireland, but in the autumn we begin to remind you once again about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

What we don’t want is to distress or scare you about the dangers that lurk in and around your home – we want to keep reminding you to take preventative measures to keep yourselves and your families safe.

This year we are bringing forward our plans to raise awareness of the “silent killer” with help from the Gis A Hug Foundation, who by now have almost become a household name. The foundation was established in memory of Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson who died last year as a result of CO poisoning. With the help of the foundation we aim to target those who are deemed most at risk from the silent killer, in particular students and older people.

In Northern Ireland last year there were five deaths in a four month period as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, with possible casualties from other CO-related incidents that may have gone unreported. What we do know is that since the terrible tragedies from last year, lives most certainly have been saved because of the tireless campaigning by the Gis A hug Foundation.

The Foundation has donated 300 CO alarms to RoSPA and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT) which is running 10 carbon monoxide awareness workshops enabling around 300 people to take home a free detector. The CO warning devices were delivered to RoSPA and the SHSCT for distribution among the most vulnerable in society.

Neil’s mum, Catherine McFerran, said that the pain of losing her son is always there but that something positive has come out of it the tragedy. She explained how the Gis A Hug Foundation raises money to purchase and supply free alarms to students, older people and other vulnerable members of society.

We continue to support of the foundation and are delighted to have been instrumental in making important introductions to the group. Mr McFerran told us that the foundation has received lots of feedback from people who told them that the alarms have saved lives.

As a parting message on this subject, I encourage you to cultivate new habits by being inquisitive about home safety – in particular about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. So please take the time to read the important safety steps mentioned below and to explore the RoSPA website:

  • Have gas appliances serviced annually by a gas engineer registered with the Gas Safe Register
  • CO is not just a by product of burning gas, but of all fossil fuels. So if you have wood, coal or oil burning appliances, have these regularly serviced by professionals too
  • Keep rooms adequately ventilated, never block air vents and have chimneys and flues swept regularly
  • Remember: CO detectors and alarms are a last resort in the prevention of CO poisoning. They are not a substitute for proper maintenance and servicing.

Advice for preventing CO poisoning applies equally to caravans, boats and holiday homes with fuel-burning appliances, such as heaters or stoves. And following three tragic incidents across the UK this summer, it is vital that people know that they should never take barbecues or stoves into tents to keep warm.

If you live in rented property, ask your landlord to show you the Landlord’s Gas Safety Record. This is something that students in particular should bear in mind at this time of year, when they are looking for accommodation.

Know what you’re looking for when it comes to symptoms: if you, your family, or even your pets show signs of prolonged flu-like symptoms, or if your appliances’ pilot lights burn with an orange flame rather than blue, it could be time to get your home checked.

For more information on the dangers of carbon monoxide and other home safety concerns please visit www.rospa.com.

Ita McErlean, RoSPA’s home safety manager in Northern Ireland

27 June, 2011

Join the battle against darkness

The intergalactic battle betwixt the forces of darkness and light is about to mobilise us Earthlings… again.

Though this tussle isn’t likely to involve Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker (he’s yet to respond to our letters), you can bet your bottom drachma that sabres will soon be swooshing/rattling in the labyrinthine corridors of the Death Star – I mean Parliament.

That’s because the plan to give us Brits lighter evenings all year round – by adopting Single/Double Summer Time (GMT+1 in winter and GMT+2 in summer) – is about to be debated by MPs… again.

You may recall that in December a Private Members’ Bill, put forward by Rebecca Harris MP, passed its second reading in the House of Commons with a huge majority.

Once we’d stopped jumping up and down and punching the air we realised there were still a few more mountains to climb. The next Everest will see the PMB go before a committee of all-party MPs. This stage is as crucial as it is imminent.

If Ms Harris’s Bill eventually conquers all, it will lead to the Government carrying out a cross-departmental analysis of the benefits of SDST – which in turn could trigger a three-year trial.

Why, you might wonder, are we getting so hot under the collar about fiddling with the clocks?

RoSPA has been at the forefront of the crusade to bring brighter nights to the UK for decades – citing research that shows they would save 80 lives and prevent more than 200 serious injuries on the roads each year.

A look in the rear-view mirror is quite disturbing. We estimate that about 5,000 deaths and 30,000 serious injuries have been caused needlessly in the UK since a similar, three-year experiment was concluded in 1971.

In addition to the avoidance of grief, suffering and hardship, another positive consequence of fewer road accidents would be considerable annual savings to taxpayers.

The Department for Transport estimated in 2009 that it would only cost £5 million to implement Single/Double Summer Time – but would save more than £138 million every year thereafter.

Some of the other benefits of SDST include a cut in annual CO2 emissions by nearly 500,000 tonnes, and a boost to the UK tourism industry of up to £3.5 billion per year – as well as more opportunities for people to play sport and to enjoy outdoor activities.

You can do your bit to convince the UK’s movers and shakers of this plan’s worthiness by clicking the big, red “Support Our Campaign” button on our campaign website.

Cliché alert: We need your force to be with us on this one!

Michael Corley, RoSPA’s campaigns manager

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