Mar 12, 2021
This weekend, we “spring ahead” an hour with Daylight Saving Time (DST) at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. I am not a particular fan of the “fall back” aspect of DST, but I love springing forward!
The history of DST is interesting. I have heard that Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea of DST and that it was implemented because of agricultural needs. Neither of these stories is true. Mr. Franklin did suggest that people adjust their sleeping schedules to take more advantage of the sunshine and save money on candles. He did not actually suggest changing the clocks.
When DST was first implemented in 1918, the farming community was strongly opposed to the change. Daylight saving was disruptive for farmers, forcing them to wait an extra hour for dew to evaporate before harvesting hay. In addition, cows weren’t ready to be milked an hour earlier to meet shipping schedules. Agricultural interests led the fight for the repeal of national DST, which passed in 1919.
You may be asking “Why was DST implemented?” The idea for DST had been discussed as early as the 1890s, but it wasn’t until 1916 when Germany became the first country to make it the law of the land. The reason? To save fuel for the war effort. Germany was quickly followed by the United Kingdom, France and several other countries. The U.S. adopted DST in 1919, also to save fuel for the war. Shortly after World War I, DST was repealed in Europe and the U.S., and wasn’t reinstated nationally until World War II.
After World War II, DST was once again repealed as a national law. However, several cities and towns continued the practice, causing much confusion between neighboring urban and rural areas. By 1966, this confusion was bad enough to prompt the Uniform Time Act—the first peacetime Daylight Saving Time law. Initially DST was instituted for six months out of the year, leaving the other six months as Standard Time. In 2005, the law was changed and DST is now eight months vs. four months of Standard Time. Not all states have DST. Hawaii and Arizona have opted out of DST. However, the Navajo tribal lands in Arizona do observe DST.
There is an ongoing debate as to whether DST saves fuel. When instituted in the early 1900s, there was likely a fuel savings realized. However, in today’s electronic world, we are using so many devices—regardless of whether the sun is shining—that the amount of savings is negligible. There have been studies that found that DST may actually increase energy usage. For example, a 2011 study by economists Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant found that, after some Indiana counties began observing DST, overall residential electricity consumption increased as much as 4%.
Setting your clock forward an hour for DST in spring might mean losing an hour of sleep on the morning after the change. For some people, this may just be a minor annoyance. However, the lack of sleep can be difficult for others.
- A Swedish study found that the risk of having a heart attack increases in the first three weekdays after switching to DST in the spring.
- Tiredness induced by the clock change is thought to be the main cause for the increase in traffic accidents on the Monday following the start of DST.
- On Mondays after the start of DST there were more workplace injuries, and the injuries were of greater severity compared with other Mondays.
There are those who would eliminate DST. A few years ago, the European Parliament voted to review whether DST is actually worth it. But for now, DST is the law of the land, and my alarm clock is going to ring an hour earlier on Monday. But, the extra sunshine Monday after work is going to be welcome!