The second Sunday in March has most Americans losing an hour in the switch to daylight savings time (DST). This creates a 23 hour day. In the fall, they more than happily change back to standard time, with a 25-hour day.
In 1916, Germany implemented DST nationally. They did this before any other country because of World War I and to attempt energy conservation. Other countries involved in the war effort followed suit, including the United States.
These countries reverted to standard time at the end of WWI, but implemented daylight savings time again during WWII, citing the same reason, which was to reduce energy consumption.
Seventy-five countries use daylight savings time as of 2017. In fact, most of the modern world changes their clocks twice a year. In 1784, Benjamin Franklin hypothesized that Americans could save candles if they woke up earlier to make better use of daylight hours.
Daylight savings time caused confusion for the train industry until the 1966 Uniform Time Act. The decree designated standards for time changes and which days to turn the clock back, or ahead.
In the bill, the standard dates for DST established to begin on the last Sunday in April and ending on the last Sunday in October, yearly. These dates have changed to what is known today. Now daylight savings time starts on the second Sunday in March and ending the first Sunday in November.
Despite the claim that daylights saving time was implemented to save energy, a study in Indiana found a 2-4 percent increase in energy demand during the months of DST. In their paper, Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant, hypothesize that more daylight hours may also mean increased pollution emissions.
Even the United States Department of Energy estimates a modest .03 percent drop in energy consumption from the national average. This drop may be attributed to other factors including the warmer climate during daylight savings time months when many Americans use various methods to cool their homes.
Parents fighting the switch to daylight savings time argue that darkened winter mornings endanger children when they walk to school or wait outside for the bus. Indeed, such mornings are colder and darker without the sunlight, which affects pedestrians and motorists alike.
In fact, a study from Colorado University Boulder found that loss of sleep, following turning the clocks ahead for daylight savings time, led to more than 300 deaths in a decade because of increased car crashes, heart attacks, and stress. The university’s study is not the only of its kind.
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) issued a report in 1996, of its study between 1991 and 1992, which compiled data from automobile accidents in all of the Canadian provinces that observe daylight savings time.
Major disasters, including the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger, have been linked to insufficient sleep, disrupted circadian rhythms, or both on the part of involved supervisors and staff.
Furthermore, the journal announced finding that the effects of daylight savings time are more pronounced in citizens under 65 years of age. This shift may be explained by the average retirement age. It is possible that retired people may be better able to adjust to the time change and recover the lost hour of sleep.
In their report Grant and Kotchen argued against the usage of daylight savings time, estimating an increased cost in electricity to homes of $9 million per year. They also estimate societal costs of increased pollution which range from $1.7 to 5.5 million per year.
By Kristen Gray
Edited by Cathy Milne
NEJM: Shifts to and from Daylight Savings Time and Incidence of Myocardial Infarction
Energy Policy Act of 2005: Section 110
the NATIONAL BUREAU of ECONOMIC RESEARCH: Does Daylight Savings Time Save Energy? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Indiana
University of Colorado Boulder: Spring Forward at Your Own Risk: Daylight Savings Time and Fatal Vehicle Crashes
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Gabriela Pinto’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License