Don’t be in the dark, commute smart

Today (November 1) is National Commute Smart Day. The clocks have gone back and many commuters are now facing the prospect of travelling both to and from work in the dark during the coming winter months.

This on top of the huge amount of time commuters already spend travelling will drive many to further despondency and depression.

The aim of Commute Smart Day is to highlight the issues of commuting in the winter and to encourage employers to adopt smarter working practices, such as flexible working times, staggered journeys and part home working, to enable their employees to mitigate some of this dejection.

Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, which is behind Commute Smart Day, said: “UK workers spend on average 47 working days a year commuting – almost one additional working day per week – and this is on top of the UK having one of the longest working weeks in Europe. The additional burden of having to commute in the dark could be the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’.

“There is another way. If employers will allow a level of smarter working they may well see an improvement in staff wellbeing, and even an increase in productivity."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Sensible employers already know that they will get the best from their staff if they adopt flexible approaches to working.

By signing up to Commute Smart Day, employers will not only be helping their staff stay safe, they will also be doing their bit to protect the environment and will be giving their staff greater control over their working lives by offering them more choice over the hours they work."

The benefits of smarter working are not only for the staff themselves, it will also have a beneficial knock-on effect of reducing traffic congestion and public transport over-crowding by extending the rush hour, reducing peak demand.

Smarter working is expected to help limit the increase in deaths and injuries which occur on our roads during the winter months. According to latest Government statistics - ‘Road Casualties Great Britain 2005’ - the number of road users killed in November rose to 319 from 287 in October - an increase of 11%.

This surge in casualty rates between October and November, which occurs every year, is widely attributed to road users and pedestrians struggling to adapt to the darker evenings. Accidents peak in the evening rush hour - car users are at most risk of being killed and injured between 4 and 6 pm than at any other time during the week.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Losing an hour when the clocks go back can lead to lost concentration and worse, lost lives, as commuters struggle to adjust to travelling in the dark. We hope that on National Commute Smart Day, employers will encourage their staff to adjust their start and finish times so that they can stay off the roads during the danger hours of 4 to 6pm.”

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA head of road safety, said: “The clocks going back signal an increase in road accidents. Deteriorating weather conditions combined with dark evenings mean bad news for road users and pedestrians. We support National Commute Smart Day as it aims to reduce the need to travel, ultimately cutting down on death and injury on our roads at this particularly dangerous time of the year.”