Laura Dean Bennett
Remember that hour of sleep we lost one night back in March?
Well, we will get it back this Sunday night.
That, plus the fact that it won’t be pitch black when I wake up at 6 a.m. are about the only two good things I can think of about this time change.
This Sunday, November 6, at 2 a.m., clocks in most states in the U.S. and in many countries around the world will shift back to Standard Time (ST). This shift in time moves one hour of daylight from the evening into the morning hours.
First of all, let me just say up front, I am not unbiased about the time change. I don’t like it.
I just wish we’d pick a time and stick with it.
I know. I know. We’ve all grown up with daylight savings time (DST) – after all, it was first established in the U.S. by an act of Congress back in 1918. So I should probably be used to it by now.
But tell that to my internal clock. It takes weeks for my brain to get it.
This DST stuff has turned the globe into a patchwork quilt of different times.
As world travelers know, not only do we have time zones, but we also have places that do, and don’t, observe daylight savings time.
Only about one-quarter of the world’s population, observe daylight saving.
Today, while some 70 countries utilize DST in at least a portion of their country, the dates and times of the time changes are often not the same as our dates for changing to DST and back to Standard Time.
Most of North America and Europe and some areas in the Middle East observe DST, while most areas of Africa and Asia do not.
In South America most countries in the north of the continent near the equator don’t observe DST, while Paraguay and southern parts of Brazil do.
In the Pacific, it varies, with New Zealand and parts of southeast-ern Australia observing DST, while most other areas do not.
Japan, India and China are the only major industrialized countries that do not observe some form of daylight saving.
Yes, technology takes care of much of this – thanks to satellites and cell towers – but there will always be that one clock you forgot, such as the one in your car or on your stove, or worse, your alarm clock.
Yes, we’ve been springing forward and falling back for a long time now, but there’s a lot about DST that most of us don’t know.
Here’s a few tidbits about DST that might surprise you.
First, it’s “daylight saving time,” not “daylight savings time.”
Many people, me included, render DST’s second word in its plural form. However, since the word “saving” acts as an adjective rather than a verb, the singular is grammatically correct.
While I’m usually a real stickler about grammar, let’s face it – we’re still gonna say it wrong. And I’m okay with that.
And you’ve probably heard that we got DST from Benjamin Franklin. But that’s just a myth.
In 1784, when he was the American envoy in Paris, Franklin wrote a satirical essay titled “An Economical Project.” In it, he calculated that Parisians, simply by waking up at dawn, could save the modern-day equivalent of $200 million through “the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.”
As a result of this essay, Franklin is often incorrectly said to have invented DST, but he was really only suggesting a change in sleeping habits.
The real culprit was a London builder named William Willett, who led the first campaign to implement what he called “Summer Time.”
In his 1907 pamphlet, “The Waste of Daylight,” Willet proposed advancing clocks 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and retarding them by the same amount on four Sundays in September.
Willett spent much of his fortune promoting the adoption of “Summer Time.” The British Parliament failed to act on the measure, and Willett died in 1915 at age 58 without seeing his idea come to fruition.
It was during World War I that the proposal was enacted, but it was Germany, not Britain, who first established DST.
On April 30, 1916, Germany embraced DST in an effort to conserve electricity.
Then, just weeks later, the United Kingdom followed suit.
Another myth about DST is that it was proposed in the United States as a benefit to farmers.
Actually, American farmers did not lobby for DST to have more time to work in the fields.
In fact, the agriculture industry was opposed to DST when it was first implemented in 1918.
The sun, not the clock, has always dictated farmers’ schedules, and they found DST to be very disruptive.
Farmers had to wait an extra hour for dew to evaporate to cut or bale hay and it was hard for cows to adjust to a different milking time to meet shipping schedules.
Farmers led the fight for the 1919 repeal of national DST, which passed after Congress overrode President Woodrow Wilson’s veto.
Rather than rural interests, it has been mostly urban entities like retail outlets and recreational businesses that have championed DST over the decades.
After the national repeal in 1919, some states and cities, including New York City and Chicago, continued with DST.
National DST returned during World War II, but was repealed three weeks after the war’s end, and the confusing national hodgepodge resumed.
States and localities could start and end DST whenever they pleased, a system that, in 1963, Time magazine (there’s a joke in here someplace) described as “a chaos of clocks.”
In 1965 there were 23 different pairs of start and end dates in Iowa alone, and St. Paul, Minnesota, even began daylight saving two weeks before its twin city, Minneapolis.
Passengers on a 35-mile bus ride from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, famously passed through seven time changes.
Some standardization finally came in 1966 when President Johnson signed into law the Uniform Time Act, which standardized DST from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October (until 2007 when the date for resuming standard time was changed to the first Sunday in November).
But to this day, states have the option of remaining on standard time year-round.
Hawaii and Arizona- with the exception of the Arizona’s Navajo Nation- do not observe DST.
The U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands also remain on standard time year-round.
Some Amish communities also choose not to participate in DST.
And the reasons for using DST are again under fire.
There’s really no evidence that DST provides an economic benefit by conserving energy.
A U.S. Department of Transportation study in the 1970s concluded that total electricity savings associated with DST amounted to about 1 percent in the spring and fall months.
But air conditioning becoming more widespread, more recent studies have found that cost savings on lighting are more than offset by greater cooling expenses.
There’s also an argument to be made that increased recreational activity during DST results in greater gasoline consumption.
And then there’s the fact that studies show that our driving gets worse in the days following a time change, and not just in the Spring when we’ve lost an hour of sleep.
A Canadian researcher reported a five-to-seven percent increase in fatal accidents in the three days after the switch to DST. Other studies have also shown a similar increase in accidents in the fall when we gain that hour back.
One Carnegie Mellon University study found that the increase in accidents has to do with drivers having difficulty adjusting to the difference in light conditions.
So, whether it makes sense or not, we’re going to keep changing the time from ST to DST and back again until there’s enough of a consensus against it.
That probably isn’t going to happen before Sunday night, in which case, we’ll all be running around changing our clocks again.
Remember, it’s Spring Forward and Fall Back, so at least we get an extra hour of sleep.
That’s assuming you don’t have a dog staring at you and waiting to be let out and fed at exactly the same time each morning, like I do.
I’ve tried to explain DST to her, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t get it.
You might try explaining it to your cows and chickens, too.
Good luck with that.