Nick Ross: End this Dark Age and save children's lives

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Given the hysteria over false health scares such as MMR, it is little less than sensational humbug that we deliberately kill roughly 100 children every year. We will all, individually and collectively, contribute to the massacre this weekend. Make no mistake: the fact that we put our clocks back each October is not because of an inescapable force of nature. It is a political choice made by ministers. That choice has appalling consequences: blood, pain, disfigurements, disabilities and bereavements on a scale that, if it happened in any other context, would scandalise the nation.

For many of us, changing the clocks twice a year is little more than a minor inconvenience. But there is an intellectual disconnect between that little domestic chore and its terrible consequences. The huge costs in human life have been researched in report after official report. Its murderous effect is as sure as if we had led dozens of children up a mountain and offered them to the gods. But this human sacrifice is not to the gods; it is on the altar of unthinking politics.

Politicians are more worried about upsetting the reported objections of a few hundred livestock farmers than about the resulting and measurable cull of human young. It is a real low in the ethics of British public life. Yes, there is a downside to having a darker start to the day: mostly, that as you go farther north, you can have eerily and frustratingly long, gloomy mornings.

Some farmers and construction workers have a legitimate objection. But in the balance of right and wrong, can their inconvenience, or even costs, seriously be thought to be worth 100 or more families bereaved each year? Is that a sacrifice they themselves would wish to be responsible for?

Not all politicians are blasé about these young casualties. There have been attempts to scrap this tinkering with clocks, most recently by Nigel Beard, MP for Bexleyheath. It does not say much for his fellow MPs that the bill was blocked. Nor was it the finest hour for elements of the Scottish press that, finding a Sassenach to attack, gave Mr Beard such a rough ride. Mercifully, most Scottish journalists and many politicians nowadays take a rather more reflective approach. Indeed, the Scottish Executive now accepts that changing the system would also save Scots' lives.

The reason that putting back the clocks is so deadly is that it deprives us of daylight in the afternoons, when people, especially children, are more active and yet less conscientious. For some reason, we humans tend to be more cautious in the early mornings. This is not just theory; evidence is there.

Between 1968 and 1971 Britain experimented by keeping the clocks on GMT+1 throughout the year. As expected, with the darker mornings there was an increase in morning casualties; but the reduction in evening casualties far outweighed it, producing an overall drop of 2,500 deaths and serious injuries during the first two years of the experiment.

The dangers of darkness in the afternoon are insidious. I have witnessed a schoolboy half-dead in the street and permanently brain-damaged because, coming back from school, he excitedly stepped off the kerb in front of a van. It was an accident, of course, but also a consequence of political decisions.

We abandoned GMT for summer back in the First World War after a builder named William Willett proposed "daylight saving" to improve the health of the nation.

It is no more than complacency, inertia and political cowardice that keeps us where we are. Let this year be the last that we put the clocks back. If not, let us hear the name of each MP who would vote to continue this Dark Age carnage.

Nick Ross is a council member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and a BBC presenter

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