Like it or not, Daylight Saving Time starts this weekend. I am a fan, loving the extra sunlight in the evenings. If it were up to me, we’d practice DST year round. Winter is difficult enough without the gloomy darkness beginning at 4:30pm. On the other hand, I need to somehow add hours to my day, not lose one! I’m already struggling to get everything done that I want to do! So, WHY are we doing this?
As with many things, the US was late to the game of DST but has reinvented it several times. Initially started during World War 1, the purpose was to save fuel. It was temporary and we reverted to Standard Time until World War 2, when DST was implemented again. It didn’t become a permanent change until 1966, when the calendar began to switch back and forth between DST and Standard Time. Then, in 1973, we spent an entire year in DST. The system of beginning DST on the first Sunday in April and ending it on the last Sunday in October began in 1986. The rules changed again in 2007. DST now begins on the second Sunday of March and ends the first Sunday in November.
The earliest US reference to saving daylight can be found in an comes from an essay by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. He got the idea from Europe, where several countries practiced DST long before the US. Canada is actually credited with the initial idea but Germany was the first country to try it on a national level, followed by France and the UK. The reasons, even back then, was to preserve energy by needing less artificial light, even if it was candlelight.
DST is hardly a modern concept. Ancient civilizations engaged in a similar practice and would adjust their daily routines to the sun’s schedule. Roman water clocks, for examples, used different scales for different months.
Over the years, supporters of DST have given us new reasons in support of DST. One is safety. Some people believe that if we have more daylight at the end of the day, we will have fewer auto accidents. However, studies dispute this. They’ve shown that traffic accidents, as well as heart attacks, increase in the days following the time change. Many attribute the cause of both to be lack of adequate sleep.
When year-round daylight time was tried in 1973, one reason it was repealed was because of an increased number of school bus accidents in the morning. I’ve often heard people say that the reason for DST is school kids and bus schedules but I never knew where that originated, until now.
I also have heard the farmers blamed for DST. In fact, farmers generally do not like the time change. They rise with the sun, regardless of what the clock says. They have to adjust their schedules to meet the needs of the community and those to whom they seem their crops.
The time change in 2007 cost US companies billions because of all the automated equipment that needed to be reset. It also put the US further out of sync with Asia and Africa, complicating things for businesses that deal with the other continents. Advocates for abolishing the time changes claim that there is no significant savings to energy – At least, not enough to support all of the disruption. During the coldest months of the year, there are many people who complain of going to work in the dark and returning in the dark.
Whatever the reasons or whether or not we save precious energy, I know that I am looking forward to watching the sun set a little later every day, until it’s light outside until nearly 9:00am. So, until November, when we return to Standard Time, I’m going to enjoy every minute! We’ll still have the same amount of daylight – It’s just more convenient this way.