By Emily Simpson
On Nov. 4 at 2 a.m., most of the country will once again be required to set their clocks back an hour for Daylight Saving Time.
The idea for DST was first introduced by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 in his essay, “An Economical Project.” However, the idea was not seriously considered until 1907 when London builder William Willet discussed it in his pamphlet “Wasted Daylight.” Willet expressed concern for the loss of daylight hours before most people rose in the morning, and thought that these hours of sunlight would be better suited in the evening, allowing more time for activities.
Rather than the one-time spring forward/fall back moving of the clock and hour, Willet proposed moving clocks 20 minutes forward and backward each Sunday in April and September, respectively.
The first US law regarding “Summer Time,” as it used to be called, made in 1925, stated that it would begin after the third Saturday in April and would end after the first Saturday in October. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 changed this, and now the US currently starts DST at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March, and ends at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.
Questions surround DST’s purpose and function, but there are a few practical answers. In regards to energy efficiency, DST cuts electricity costs by one percent every day. A study done in 1975 showed that most household energy consumption occurred in the evening when families were home. Moving clocks forward an hour helped combat this problem and moving them back in the winter allows for more needed sunlight in the mornings.
A poll done by the US Department of Transportation showed that Americans think positively of DST because it allows for longer periods of daylight for evening activities. It has also been shown by several studies in the US and Great Britain that DST reduces traffic accidents and fatalities by almost one percent. Violent crime also decreases by 10-13% during DST because these crimes are usually dependent on darkness, and the extra evening light hours deter perpetrators.
Opponents of DST point out that not only does it disrupt natural sleep patterns, but is also based off principles that don’t hold true for the modern world. They also emphasize the inconclusiveness of energy-efficiency studies on DST. Some have proposed making DST into ‘standard time’ and adopting it year-round. Parts of the country that do not observe DST include Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
There have been several interesting stories regarding DST. In 1999 a West Bank terrorist bombing was avoided because the Israeli counterparts did not quite understand the time change. As a result, the bombs went off an hour early, killing three terrorists instead of two busloads of people. DST has also caused a reversal of birth orders, when in November of 2007 a women gave birth to twins, one at 1:32 a.m., and one 34 minutes later. Because of DST, the second child was recorded as being born first, with the official birth time at 1:06 a.m.
Some tips for keeping one’s schedule on track during the time changes include getting up early, exercising, and eating healthy. Setting your clocks to the new time a week before DST gives your body time to adjust. DST has been known to throw off sleep patterns, and exercising vigorously during the day and mildly before bed has been proven to shorten the amount of time needed to fall asleep. Allowing an adequate amount of time to digest dinner before bed has also been found to help in sustaining healthy sleeping patterns.