REGION – Daylight Saving Time is all about extending the daylight hours into the productive hours of the evening, rather than the morning, to allow more time to be active and outside during daylight hours. Benjamin Franklin, in 1784, thought it would be beneficial if everyone shifted their schedules by one hour to save on candles in the evening, and to sleep soundly–without needing to pull the shutters tight.
Today, more than 70 countries “fall back” and “spring forward,” but this practice did not begin 1784. During World War I, Germany led several other countries in its adoption of “war time,” in an effort to preserve coal and other precious resources. During the summer months in the War, clocks were shifted forward an hour, and after the war, they returned to standard time.
World War II brought similar changes, with governments of 52 countries implementing appropriate rules. The United States shifted clocks forward year-round, and following the end of the war, allowed each state to independently decide which time to adhere to.
In 1966, eleven years later, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which set the beginning and end of daylight savings time. This year, we will spring forward on March 12 at 2 a.m., collectively deviating from “standard time.”
But are there benefits of a 23-hour day?
In the 1970s, the US Department of Transportation conducted a study on the energy usage before and after daylight savings time, to determine if Franklin’s predictions were correct. They measured a 1 percent decrease, but their data was questioned, as this 1 percent was within the study’s estimated margin of error.
The 1970 study has since been revoked, and other, more accurate studies have shown that there is little to no benefit of daylight savings time as far as energy uses, but that’s not all.
On one hand, advocates of daylight savings time believe its benefits reach beyond energy conservation. Rush hour traffic accidents are reduced because drivers return home in the daylight. A longer day also lowers the crime rate–after all, criminals depend on a shroud of darkness. Sports and recreation industries reap an economic incentive by keeping their stores and clubs open longer.
While the myth that daylight savings time benefits farmers is widely accepted as truth, it has been disproved and rejected by those farmers. They wake up before dawn to care for their livestock anyway, no matter what time the clock says.
Also, when the State of Indiana began to observe daylight savings time in 2006, a study by Matthew Kotchen, an economist at the University of California, found a 1 percent overall rise, costing the state an extra $9 million. Scientific research shows that the shifting of clocks interrupts normal sleep cycles, which can lead to decreased productivity and happiness, and increased fatigue and susceptibility to illnesses. Research also indicates that disrupted sleep patterns caused the number of heart attacks in Sweden to rise by 5 percent in the week following daylight savings time in 1987.
All in all, we aren’t “saving” daylight necessarily, but we’re definitely manipulating time to take advantage of the daylight we have, even if it comes with a complementary onslaught of moans, groans, and complaints.