Dr Jeremy Broughton, a research fellow at the Government's Transport Research Laboratory, yesterday claimed that these lives could be saved if the country stayed in British Summer Time (BST), and that not changing the clocks would be one of the most effective single measures to reduce road deaths.
The nation's clocks are due to go back by one hour at 2am tonight, which will provide more daylight for early-risers but make the early evenings darker. Dr Broughton recently completed a study based on three million accidents which showed that dark evenings are more dangerous to road users than dark mornings.
The disproportionate number of deaths in the evenings is put down to the fact that children and drivers are less alert in the evenings. Dr Broughton believes his point is proved by an experiment conducted at the end of the 1960s. For three years BST did not give way to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
This meant that mornings did not get lighter and evenings did not get darker.
The experiment showed "very clearly that in the morning there were extra casualties, but in the evening there were far fewer casualties because it was lighter for that extra hour and overall we had significant improvement in road safety," said Dr Broughton.
"We had some losses but many more gains, and overall fewer people were killed than would have been if we had kept the normal system of time-keeping."
The experiment was ended because of adverse publicity before "the results of the statistical analysis were available to show how beneficial the experiment had been," Dr Broughton said.
He added that as a result of the decision to return to turning the clocks back each winter, up to 3,000 lives have been lost over the past 30 years.
Dr Broughton's findings have re-opened the debate about changing the clocks.
Those in favour of putting the clocks forward an extra hour throughout the year believe that it will cut road deaths, save energy, and increase the amount of leisure time by making evenings lighter.
British business would also be on the same time as European companies.
But those against the change argue that because Britain is further west and north than the rest of Europe, the Euro time would not suit people living in northern Scotland where dawn would break at 10am in the middle of winter.
Two years ago, a Bill was introduced to bring the UK into line with Western Europe by staying one hour ahead of GMT in winter and two hours ahead in summer.
The Bill was backed by police, road-safety campaigners, business and the tourism industry, but failed after opposition from Scottish MPs, who said it would leave the Highlands in the dark until mid-morning in winter.
The former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, recently spearheaded a campaign to put Scotland and England in different time-zones.
He wants to see the Scottish parliament given the power to choose a time difference, while Westminster MPs decide what happens south of the border.Reuse content