Daylight Savings Time: Spring forward! (But does it work?)

Bronze-coated alarm clock set to nine minutes after 10

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNDAY, MARCH 9: “Spring forward” with your clocks, because Daylight Savings Time begins today.

With varying start dates and times worldwide, DST is anything but uniform—and it has the unstable history to match. Despite variances, the concept of seasonally adjusting time for daylight hours has ancient roots: early Roman society used their water clocks to increase the number of minutes in daytime hours, so that day length would seem longer during the summertime. Today, the most commonly observed Daylight Savings Time begins in March. (Find official dates through 2020 from the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory.) The practice is most widely observed by the majority of North America and Europe.

The modern notion of daylight saving was proposed more than a century ago, in 1895, by New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson. Hudson argued that adjusting clocks would provide shift workers with more leisure time after work hours and, on a practical level, would cut back on the use of electricity (Wikipedia has details.)

This resourcefulness was utilized in 1916, when Germany and its World War I allies implemented DST; several nations across the globe adopted it soon after. DST fell out of popularity after the war, but was implemented again during World War II and at varying times during the decades. The energy crisis of the 1970s carved a permanent spot for DST in many of the world’s calendars.

BUT DOES IT WORK?

Today, the energy-saving benefits of DST are highly debated, as are its economic effect and impact on public safety. Studies have shown that the sleep disruption caused by DST, along with the interruption of circadian rhythm, can actually have negative health effects; the cost to reprogram everything from computer programs to medical devices has shown to be cost-inhibitive. Still, many recreational programs and some businesses have reported increased sales due to the hourly changes of DST.

The Wikipedia article on this debate lists dozens of reports and counter-reports from researchers, government agencies and other groups.

IN THE NEWS:
MORE STATES ON THE VERGE OF
DUMPING DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

In the United States, Hawai’i and most of Arizona don’t observe the time shifts of Daylight Savings—and as more citizens debate the pros and cons of DST, it’s likely that more states will soon follow suit.

In Tennessee, the time-shift may see its final operation today, as a bill to eliminate DST in the state has cleared a first step toward passage in the General Assembly—and, if passed, will take effect in July. In Kentucky, a lawmaker introduced a similar bill, and that bill is now being considered by a House committee. The Salt Lake Tribune recently published an article on the same topic, reporting on an effort to gather public opinion on new legislation. And, a proposal to dump DST in Idaho is in the news as well.

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