Posted 3/07/18 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
As we get ready to “Spring Forward” with the start of Daylight Saving Time (DST) at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 11, many Americans wonder why this country, with the exception of Arizona and Hawaii, go through this annual changing of the clocks. You know the routine of springing forward each spring and then falling back in the fall.
But why on earth are we messing with our clocks?
The answer goes back to World War I when the U.S. decided it would implement DST as a wartime effort to save an hour’s worth of fuel (gas or oil) each day to light lamps and coal to heat homes. It was repealed nationwide in 1919 and then brought back in 1966 when the Uniform Time Act made DST consistent nationwide.
We’ve come a long ways in the hundred years since DST was first enacted. Most notably in the way that this country gets its power to run our lights and heat or cool our homes and businesses. So the question as we prepare to go through the hassles of changing our biological clocks once again is, is it all worth it?
And as always, there are opposing thoughts on the merits of this twice a year change in time. According to a poll last year, 33 percent of Americans think DST is worth the effort, while 48 percent do not and 19 percent are not sure.
People in favor of keeping Daylight Saving Time say it allows drivers to commute more safely in daylight, promotes outdoor activities, and stimulates the economy.
Proponents say that longer daylight hours make driving safer, lowers car accident rates, and lowers the risk of pedestrians being hit by a car. And a study found that robberies drop about 7 percent overall, and by 27 percent in the evening hours after the spring time change.
When it comes to the economy, more daylight in the evening means more people shopping after work, increasing retail sales, and more people driving, increasing gas and snacks sales for eight months of the year.
And more sunlight in the evenings means that there is more time for families to be outside after work hours. That means that people have more time to spend working in their lawns and taking their families to the park or otherwise just getting outside.
But opponents are quick to point out that contrary to 100 years ago, America is no longer a country that sees its employees only working a typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five-day-a-week work schedule. Today, America runs 24/7 and the whatever may have been a reason to create Daylight Saving Time a century ago just doesn’t make sense now.
Opponents will argue that changing the clocks twice a year is a harmful disruption to health and work productivity, and that it is expensive. While the time change was initially implemented to save energy, studies are mixed and have found our current use of air conditioning and heating may negate the energy saved by not having to use electric lights and may actually increase electricity usage.
They say that changing sleep patterns, even by one hour, goes against a person’s natural circadian rhythms and has negative consequences for health. And that changing time can result in an increase in heart attacks, cluster headaches, and even suicides. And that doesn’t even address the length in time that people need before they adjust to the change in time.
You can argue whether or not you like Daylight Saving Time all you want. You just need to remember to change your clocks before going to bed on Saturday night if you want to stay in step with the rest of us.