Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time attempts to save energy by moving clocks ahead one hour in the summer time.  The idea is that there will be more sunlight in the evening hours and people will be out enjoying it and not having to use electricity to light their homes.  It is also thought that there will be less road accidents, since more people will be out during daylight hours and not after dark.Daylight Savings Time

Many people blame Benjamin Franklin for the idea of Daylight Savings Time, but according to David Prerau, author of Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Study of Daylight Saving Time, Franklin had various ideas about how to get people to wake up earlier, but he never considered adjusting clocks.  There was little uniformity in keeping time, actually, in the U.S. until the continental railroads came.  People generally had a local time for their city and time keeping might differ as one traveled from place to place.  The idea of having synchronized clocks across the nation came about at the urging of the railroad companies, who wanted to have accurate times for scheduling stops.

The idea of adjusting clock settings to conserve energy first began to be used in World War I.  DST has been used for longer periods of time than the summer months.  From February 3, 1942 to September 30, 1945 most of the United States had DST all year.  It was called “War Time.”  In 2007 the U.S. changed the dates for DST.   Now, DST starts the second Sunday in March and the end date is the first Sunday in November.  In March we “spring ahead”, setting the clocks forward an hour, and in November we “fall back”, gaining the hour back in our day.

Some people think that DST is foolish and wish the time did not change.  There’s some evidence to suggest that the time change interferes with people’s sleep patterns and can make things rough for the first few days after a change.  According to an ABC news report, researchers in Sweden reported in 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine that the number of heart attacks jumped during the period immediately following time changes.  Many people feel the effects of lack of sleep on Monday morning.
A Canadian study finds that accidents are 8.6% more likely on the Monday after a time change, a study of U.S. data shows that there’s a significant increase in fatal crashes on that first Monday, and another study suggests that there are more work-related accidents.  According to a telephone survey of 1,000 adults by Rasmussen Reports, forty-five percent don’t find the time-change beneficial, and another nineteen percent are not sure about its value.

States like California with mild weather, and northern states that are not too hot, benefit the most from DST, because people can be outside.  But, in the south, energy consumption can actually go up because people will be inside using air conditioning.  Some good news about Daylight Savings Time, though, is that the U.S. Department of Energy reported in 2008 that springing forward does save energy.  Extended daylight saving time saved 1.3 terawatt hours of electricity.

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