Why Do We Have Daylight Savings Time

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Spring forward and fall back. From childhood we learn this and are told a story that it has to do with farmers needing more light. This same story we continue to repeat into adulthood. But what is the real story of this antiquated law. Where did this twice yearly ritual begin that messes with our internal clocks, this ritual that doesn't seem to have much of a purpose anymore?

Origins

Most people are under many misgivings as to the history of daylight savings time (DST). We are taught that daylight savings time began as a method of providing farmers more natural light. According to most sources, it was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin as a way to save on candles and oil lamps, but never caught on.

Daylight savings time actually first began during World War I as a way to allow for more light to help in battles. In fact, when daylight savings time was first implemented, farmers were not necessarily fans of the new time schedule. Why wasn't DST repealed right after the war? Their actually were many attempts to do away with DST but, during World War II, Franklin Roosevelt reinstated DST, also known as “War Time” for the same reason as the first world war.

One of the problems of Roosevelt’s "War Time" was a lack of standardization. Some areas followed DST and some didn't. People were confused and needed the government to step in. Instead of repealing DST altogether, the government created the Uniform Time Act in 1966. Beginning the practice that DST begins on the last Sunday of April and ends on the last Sunday of October. Later DST was changed to the first Sunday of April in the 1980’s, and most recently in 2005 to the Second Sunday in March. States can choose not to participate, with Arizona and Hawaii doing so.

Now that we no longer need extra daylight to kill one another, why haven’t we repealed it? This goes back to Richard Nixon. In 1974 then President Nixon signed the Daylight Saving Time Energy Act. Leading to the current reason we use to justify DST - energy savings. According to an article by Michael Douma, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) did a study in 1975 showing we save in electricity “about one percent each day, because less electricity is used for lighting and appliances.”

Do We Still Need Daylight Savings Time

According to multiple articles I've read, by “artificially delaying sunrise and sunset tends to increase electricity usage in the morning and reduce it in the evening. Savings occur if the evening reduction outweighs the morning increase.” Due to the extra hour, many businesses such as convenience stores and golf courses benefit. Yet, an article I found on reference.com reports, “In 2000 when parts of Australia began DST in late winter, overall electricity consumption did not decrease”.

Another downside of DST is safety, again Michael Douma reports there is “evidence that the severity of auto accidents increases and work productivity decreases as people adjust to the time change.” As anyone who is alive has experienced, by changing our clocks even by one hour, it disrupts our sleep pattern. With a disrupted sleep pattern, we are less productive. The Calgary Sun reports that “researchers estimated in 2000 that the daylight-saving effect implies a one-day loss of $31 billion on the NYSE, AMEX, and NASDAQ alone”

In Summary

At one point in time in world history, there was a need for daylight savings time. Not because the farmers required an extra hour during the changing of the seasons, but so that soldiers would have an easier time seeing each other and killing each other during war. Since then, we have used the need for energy savings and benefits to business as justification. Yet, depending on which study is being referenced, it could be argued that DST actually provides more negatives than benefits. I am inclined to agree with the negatives outweighing the positives.