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Daylight Saving Time Needs to Die

Daylight Saving Time Needs to Die

We don’t really know why this is still a thing. But we know it does more harm than good.

Chances are, you are groggy from having lost an hour of sleep and twenty minutes changing the clocks in your home. You knew that daylight saving time (DST) was coming but not why. Turns out no one really knows why we keep messing with our clocks and our lives.

As John Oliver puts it, why is this still a thing?

Most people have a vague idea that we spring forward and turn back to help out farmers…or something. But the United States actually adopted DST during World War I in order to save fuel. One more hour of sunlight means less fuel spent on artificial lightning and therefore more fuel for the war effort. DST was abandoned and then reinstated during World War II for the same reason. In 1966, the Uniform Time Act formally established summer DST in the US (though states could opt out).

It seemed like a good idea at the time — that time was almost 100 years ago.

The Bad

Your grogginess this morning is indicative of what DST does to us as a population. Studies have linked this jarring circadian shift–even though it’s just an hour difference–to slightly increased incidences of heart attacks, traffic accidents, workplace injuries, and suicide. The hour shift also directly affects worker productivity, with lethargic laborers costing the economy an estimated $434 million per year. Maybe more.

And farmers have opposed DST almost from the start. There’s not a whole lot of field work you can do in the early morning darkness.

The Neutral

Though the original thought was that springing forward would help the US save fuel, which it did, the US power infrastructure is radically different from what it was in 1918. It’s still true that DST saves power spent on lighting, but that hardly makes a dent anymore.

One review of the studies on DST and power reduction does conclude that the practice may reduce national electricity demand by 0.5%. “However,” the authors note, “there are just as many studies that suggest no effect, and some studies suggest overall energy penalties, particularly if gasoline consumption is accounted for.”

A reason for this net nothing could be that the reduction in lighting comes with an increase in air conditioning and heating use.

The Good

Despite the groans of the Monday workforce, the DST still has some benefits. For example, there is some evidence to suggest that the extra hour of sunlight gives consumers more opportunity to shop after work, increasing sales and boosting the economy.

Joseph Stromberg writing at Vox also notes that there are smaller, harder to see benefits to DST. “Evidence can be found in the fact that primetime TV ratings sink noticeably whenever DST goes into effect, and in a recent study that showed children get more exercise on days with later sunsets, regardless of weather or school hours,” writes Stromberg.

There might also be a reduction in outdoor robberies. Thieves tend to skulk in the dark.

The Conclusion

To make DST more bearable–and to reduce the harms coming from twice-a-year clock adjustments–the solution could be to spring forward year-round. Most of the world lives with their clocks adjusted behind solar time to give them the benefits of DST without any of the drawbacks. Literally billions of people in Asia and Africa and Europe have figured this out, including Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the United States.

But until we lose our detrimental version of saving time, we are going to have to ask like John Oliver does: How is this still a thing?

[HT: The Atlantic, Vox, Gizmodo]

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  1. Mike says:

    “One more hour of sunlight means less fuel spent on artificial lightning and therefore more fuel for the war effort.”
    We could make artificial lightning?! Holy crap! I would think that would’ve helped the war effort. 
    I’m off to Google artificial lightning in WWI. I’ve never heard of this!
    Or maybe you guys suck just as bad as Yahoo! at proofreading your articles….

    • Emily says:

      Calm down, it’s just one small typo in a large, otherwise flawless article. Trust me, there are many much worse things on the Internet to go around mocking for poor spelling/grammar, and this is neither; it’s just a simple finger slip that is easy to overlook. I tend to enjoy proofreading articles myself, and I didn’t even notice it. If anything, mock the premise of the article instead of its one typo. 

  2. BARBARA says:


  3. paris says:

    we don’t change times where I live.. our only issue with daylight savings is we get slightly annoyed that our tv shows all come on an different times lol. I never really understood the point… i love the long summer nights.

  4. Laura says:

    You mean, “spent on lighting”? Im pretty sure they werent running out of lightning during WW1…Need an editor?

  5. SirPete says:

    There’s a compromise plan I’ve held for a few years now: next time the clocks change, change it by half an hour (split the difference) and put the entire matter to rest.  Done.  Benefits get kept, at least partially, and drawbacks are abated, again partially.  Who’s with me?

  6. Cynthia Grissinger says:

    Let’s stay on DST all the time.  I love having the extra hour of daylight at night – especially in the winter.

  7. SwanGore says:

    I say leave it as it is now. One hour ahead. The day light gets shorter in the fall so why the hell would we want to move the clock back to make it even shorter! And the farther north you are the worse it is. I grew up in northern Canada. By 3:30 PM the sun was setting as I was getting out of school… that’s real safe! Just leave it as it is now so we can worship the giant gas orb in the sky longer!Here’s the funny thing. In about a month people will stop bitching about this and come November everyone will be happy about the extra hour… until this time next year…. 

  8. NachoKingP says:

    Am I the only one that would be fine with it being all year round?  I HATE when it’s dark at 4:30 in winter.  I wouldn’t mind the extra hour all the time.  The main complaint seems to be from the switching.  Well why not eliminate that and just give us the extra hour all the time?