As the first Sunday in March, this Sunday marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time in the US. Officially, clocks “spring ahead” at 1:59 a.m. jumping to 3:00 a.m. This time was chosen to create the least disruption. Most people are at home and asleep and it is early enough that the entire country has made the change, time zone by time zone, by morning.
The main purpose of Daylight Saving Time is simply to make better use of daylight. By moving clocks ahead in spring, an hour of daylight is moved from morning to evening. Many countries around the world practice Daylight Saving Time, but change dates vary. Tropical countries near the equator have no need of Daylight Saving Time since hours of daylight and night are pretty much the same year-round.
The History of Daylight Saving Time
The idea of Daylight Saving Time was originally conceived by Benjamin Franklin and set forth in a 1784 essay. The idea was considered and discussed over many years, but was not put into effect until World War I when some European countries, in an effort to conserve fuel necessary for producing electricity, instituted it. In the US, Daylight Saving Time was established March 19, 1918 in “an Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States.” The law was so unpopular that it was repealed after the war.
During World War II, year-round Daylight Saving Time was established and called War Time. However, after the war, from 1945 to 1966 there was no federal law regarding Daylight Saving Time. States were free observe Daylight Saving Time, or not. And they could also decide the date to begin and end. This caused a great deal of confusion for national businesses that had to publish schedules like transportation and broadcasting. There was one 35-mile stretch of highway between Moundsville, WV and Steubenville, OH that included seven time changes!
In 1966, because local laws had established Daylight Saving Time for a good proportion of Americans, Congress decided it was time to create one cohesive plan throughout the US. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 was born. Under this act, Daylight Saving Time began on the last Sunday of April and ended on the last Sunday of October. States could reject this law, however, by passing one of their own. The federal law was amended in 1986 to begin on the first Sunday in April and ending the last Sunday of October. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (to take effect in 2007) extended Daylight Saving Time further with a beginning date of the second Sunday of March and ending the first Sunday of November.
Advantages and Peculiarities of Daylight Saving Time
So, is there any advantage to Daylight Saving Time other than allowing us to enjoy long summer evenings? Initially it was assumed that extending the hours of daylight in the evening when families are at home would save energy because lights would not need to be turned on as early. In addition, the added hour of sunlight might keep people outdoors longer limiting energy used for TVs and other appliances. However, the widespread use of home air conditioning today tends to negate the savings from lights and appliances.
There is a study by the U.S. Law Enforcement Assistance Administration that found Daylight Saving Time reduces crimes which generally rely on darkness like muggings. Their data showed violent crime down 10-13% during Daylight Saving Time.
The change of the end date for Daylight Saving Time in 2007 was applauded by parents as a safety measure. Pedestrian deaths of children are four times higher on Halloween than on any other night of the year. Continuing Daylight Saving Time through the Halloween holiday gave children an additional hour of daylight to trick-or-treat. However, many children wait until dark to go trick-or-treating, so the good intentions may come to nothing.
If you are travelling overnight by Amtrak on the day clocks “fall back,” your train will stop at 2:00 a.m. and remain stopped until 3:00 a.m. to resume the trip. This keeps the train on schedule. On the “spring forward” date in March, overnight trains become an hour behind schedule at 2:00 a.m. There is no easy solution to this problem other than to try to make up time on the remainder of the journey.
A study conducted in Michigan using data from 42,000 hospital admissions over 4 years showed the risk of having a heart attack the Monday after losing an hour of sleep to Daylight Saving Time was increased 25%. Although the relationship of heart attacks to sleep has been shown in other studies, Dr. Amneet Sandhu, a cardiology fellow at the University of Colorado who led the study says, “Our study suggests that sudden, even small changes in sleep could have detrimental effects.” It is important to note that the overall number of heart attacks for the week did not change, just the number that occurred on the Monday after the change in the clocks. Although the study was limited, it does raise some questions which dictate additional study.
Daylight Saving Time is generally accepted around the world except in equatorial countries, but controversy remains. There is no telling what the future may hold. For now, just enjoy that extra hour of sunlight each evening. Better yet, come enjoy those long summer evenings with us in Vermont. Plan the perfect vacation by visiting Vermont.com. Check out lodging, dining options, and things to do.
If you have thoughts on the advantages or disadvantages of Daylight Saving Time, please share them with us.