Why Save Daylight, Anyway?
Why do we lose an hour of sleep each spring only to gain it back in the fall? Blame founding father Benjamin Franklin, who suggested in a 1784 essay that people should get out of bed one hour earlier in the spring and summer to enjoy more natural light. Fast-forward to 1895, when New Zealand entomologist George Hudson proposed the modern version of daylight saving time to give him more time in the evenings to collect insects. The idea gained traction in Europe during World War I as a way to save coal, and the United States adopted DST in 1918. It was, however, repealed the following year.
Daylight savings time was reinstated as a wartime measure in 1942, but at the war's end states and cities were free to decide whether to observe it or not. It wasn't until 1966 that daylight saving time became official throughout most of the United States. Read on for a few more surprising facts about springing forward and falling back.
1. The length of time daylight savings lasts has changed more than once.
In the United States, DST originally started in April and ended in October, but the Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended DST by four weeks. Americans now set their clocks forward on the second Sunday in March and back on the first Sunday in November. DST was once even longer: In response to the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s, Congress increased the length of daylight saving time to 10 months in 1974 and 8 months in 1975. The experiment was abandoned in 1976.
2. Not all U.S. states and territories observe DST.
Arizona and Hawaii do not observe DST. Neither do most U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
3. Daylight savings killed the drive-in movie theater—or so some people believe.
A consortium of drive-in movie theater owners bitterly opposed the adoption of DST in 1966, because extending daylight into the evening meant that movies could not start at a family-friendly hour. There were more than 4,000 drive-in movie theaters across America in the mid-1960s. Today, fewer than 340 remain, and many enthusiasts say that DST is at least partly to blame.
4. DST exacerbates sleep deprivation.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration, on the Mondays after the switch to DST, workers sleep an average of 40 minutes less—and 5.7 percent more injuries occur then compared with other days. It can take weeks for sleep cycles to adapt to DST, and young children have a particularly hard time adjusting to different sleep patterns. Other studies link the lack of sleep at the start of DST to car accidents, depression, suicide, and miscarriages.
5. It also causes more car accidents.
According to a 2020 study in Current Biology, spring DST "significantly increased fatal MVA risk by 6%" and that the ""MVA risk increase waned in the week subsequent to DST." However, "falling back" to standard time did not affect MVA risk, and supports the idea that sleep deprivation has something to do with the rise in traffic fatalities.
6. Heart attacks are more common on the Monday after daylight savings.
A 2017 study in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics estimated that “the transition into DST caused over 30 deaths at a social cost of $275 million annually," primarily attributable to sleep deprivation. A 2008 Swedish study found that heart attacks were significantly more common on the first three weekdays after the spring transition, while a 2014 study by the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center shows a 24 percent jump in the number of heart attacks on the Monday after DST compared with other Mondays throughout the year.
7. DST doesn't actually save energy.
Opinions are split on whether DST actually saves energy. Daylight saving time was designed to help consumers take advantage of natural light and rely less on artificial light, which should in theory save electricity. Today, however, the widespread use of air conditioners, computers, and TV screens has virtually wiped out that energy savings. In fact, a study found that when the state of Indiana switched to DST in 2006, energy usage actually increased. Some U.S. studies have shown that DST reduces residential lighting costs, which represent about 3.5 percent of total electric usage; however, other studies found that DST increases air conditioner use, which represents about 16.5 percent of electric usage.
8. Most Americans aren't really on board with daylight savings.
Only 36 percent of Americans believe we need DST, according to a 2016 survey by electronic public opinion polling firm Rasmussen Reports. More than 40 percent of those surveyed do not believe that DST is an effective way to save energy, just 35 percent consider the time change “worth the hassle,” and 16 percent said that DST has made them early or late for an appointment because they didn't reset their clocks properly.
9. When it's lighter out in the evenings, shoppers tend to spend more money.
Malls, independent retailers, and companies in the sports, leisure, and tourism industries were early proponents of DST and continue to support it today. Having more daylight in the evening encourages people to go shopping and spend more time and money on outdoor activities. For instance, the National Golf Foundation once estimated that extending DST increased golf industry revenues from $200 million to $300 million. In 1984, Fortune magazine calculated that a 7-week extension of DST would yield an additional $30 million for 7-Eleven stores. Companies that make outdoor grills and charcoal determined that they gained $200 million in sales when DST was extended.
10. Farmers are opposed to daylight savings.
Although many people think that DST was intended to benefit farmers, farmers argued strenuously against its adoption in the 1960s and continue to call for its abolition today. Dairy farmers in particular have been vociferously opposed, because cows are extremely sensitive to milking times. Additionally, grain is best harvested after morning dew has evaporated, which makes DST a hindrance to farmworkers.
11. The Sunshine Protection Act could make DST permanent.
A national movement called Lock The Clock (#LockTheClock) is underway to abolish DST. In March 2022, the United States Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight saving time permanent—no more changing clocks! At press time in November 2022, however, the bill is still held up in the House.
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