Daylight saving time has been getting a bad rap. Some are saying that setting our clocks forward one hour today, Sunday, March 11, is just a “big fast waste of time” that “creates chaos and confusion” and might actually use up more energy than it saves — which would be more than unfortunate, as the United States began to observe daylight saving time during World War I to conserve energy, on the theory that having an extra hour of daylight at night meant that people would use less electricity by needing to turn the lights on for fewer hours.
Does gaining an extra hour of sunlight make up for waking up in the dark for weeks?
Since 2007, the period for daylight saving time has been extended by four weeks to promote energy conservation, under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Washington Post reviews some disadvantages (and benefits?) of daylight savings time; I have added one of my own.
1. Daylight Saving Time Doesn’t Conserve Energy
A 2008 study by economists Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant found that, when all counties of Indiana had to shift to daylight saving time under state law, the time shift caused “the greatest increase in electricity consumption in the fall” due to, in part, people turning up their air conditioners more. Daylight saving time actually costs Indiana $10.7 million to $14.5 million more per year, due to higher electricity bills and increased pollution from coal.
2. Daylight Saving Time Doesn’t Affect Gasoline Usage
When Congress extended daylight saving time under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, analysts claimed that oil consumption would fall by 1 percent. But a 2005 review (pdf) by the Department of Energy found that gasoline consumption had not been affected at all.
3. Daylight Saving Time May Not Make the Roads Safer
The Washington Post cites a 1995 study (pdf) in the American Journal of Public Health according to which the roads are safer, thanks to the extra hour of sunlight from daylight saving time. But a 1996 study by Stanley Coren in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the fatigue from losing an hour of sleep led to an increase in traffic accidents in the spring, while traffic accidents decreased in the fall when we set our clocks back.
4. Daylight Saving Time May Be Hazardous For Your Health
The Washington Post found research that argues for the benefits of daylight saving time — more sunlight means we get more Vitamin D — but being tired (that lost hour of sleep) due to the time change is associated with an increased risk for heart attacks, says a new study from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Tired workers mean the risk of workplace accidents is greater, too, says a 2009 study (pdf).
5. Daylight Saving Time Hurts Some Parts of the Economy
Daylight saving time has benefits for retailers — more hours of daylight mean people are out longer to shop — as well as for what the Washington Post calls the “all-powerful golfing industry.” But audiences in movie theaters and for prime-time television decrease, presumably because people are out on the links or otherwise enjoying more hours of sunlight.
6. It Is Just Really Confusing To Change the Clocks
The time changes, especially when it’s time to “fall back” and set the clock back an hour in October, can be disruptive for my teenage autistic son, Charlie and schoolchildren everywhere (especially sleepyhead teenagers). Charlie has a sense of time based on his internal body clock and observing when it’s light and dark, but is still learning to use a digital clock to tell time. The rationale behind changing the times on the clock makes little (or more likely, no) sense to him. He is often an early riser so “springing forward” today has not been a big deal, but setting the clock back often has painful results, as it means for at least a week in the fall he hears his parents rousing him an hour earlier.
On the other hand, Charlie and my husband are very glad for an extra hour for bike rides.
Should we keep daylight saving time or is it a practice that has outlived its usefulness?
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