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Clocks Change This Spring

Mar 18, 2008
I doubt many of us will be springing out of bed on the morning of Sunday 30 March 2008, when we've lost a precious hour's sleep. On the positive side, it does signal the beginning of British Summer Time and longer, lighter evenings.

We've been religiously putting our clocks backwards and forwards to varying degrees in England since 1916. William Willett was the man responsible, a businessman and keen horse-rider who had first proposed the idea of British Summer Time in 1907 in a pamphlet entitled 'The Waste of Daylight'.

Debate has been raging for most of the last century over whether it should happen at all. Why do we do it? And what happens in other parts of the world?

Willett had noticed that during summer mornings the light was wasted as most people were still sleeping, and that it would be better utilised in the afternoon by putting the clocks forward. 'Daylight saving' was in fact common practice in the ancient world and had been resurrected by American Benjamin Franklin in a 1784 satire.After campaigning for years the British Government finally adopted the system just after Germany, and a year after Willett's death.

Over the years it has been suggested that Britain should stick to British Summer Time all year round.During the Second World War and the late 1960s experiments took place whereby the clocks were not put back in autumn. After much discussion of the pros and cons the Government decided to revert to the original system.

A recent environmental report claimed that darker evenings in winter cause an extra surge in energy demand, carbon emissions and road accidents and that we should again trial year-round BST.It is generally agreed that fewer road traffic accidents occur during lighter evenings but there is an increase in the number of morning accidents caused by darkness.

Farmers, construction, postal and other outdoor workers are traditionally opposed to the idea because of the lack of early morning light.Northern Ireland, Scotland and northern parts of England would experience darkness until around 9am if British Summer Time was retained during the winter months.

The issue is particularly tricky for international travellers. Not only do we need to check a country's time zone but also their use of daylight saving. Since 2002 most of the European Union change their clocks on the last Sundays of March and October.

North America and most of Canada use a similar system but on the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November. Egypt, Namibia and Tunisia are the only African countries who observe daylight saving. The countries of South America use a variety of systems. Daylight saving is not generally used in Asia but the Middle Eastern countries observe it to varying degrees.New Zealand and parts of Australia are the only countries in Oceania that currently put their clocks forwards and backwards.

It can all be very confusing. For now we've just got to remember that the clocks go forward in 2008 on Sunday 30 March.
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