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Is Daylight Saving Time an Outdated Concept?

Should we still change our clocks twice per year or has this idea become outdated? Find out a little history on Daylight Saving Time and why this writer thinks it should be stopped.

Daylight Torture Time. I think that is a good name for it, at least for me. When I tell people how I feel about it, they often assume that I mean I don't like springing forward to Daylight Saving Time. However, it isn't just about springing forward, I feel almost equally indignant about falling back in November.

First, I will debunk some myths and provide some facts about my pet peeve. It hasn't been around forever, and Benjamin Franklin did not put it into effect during his lifetime. The credit goes to Franklin for the original idea, however, though it was never observed until much later in the US. His idea was originally written as a humorous letter to the Journal of Paris and later the letter was published as an essay with the title of “An Economical Project”. It is actually pretty funny and meant to be tongue-in-cheek with lines such as “let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually” and more. However, Daylight Saving Time did not begin during Franklin's lifetime. In fact, it hasn't even been around for the entire lifetime of many people today.

Though the concept was adopted by the US in 1918 during World War I, it was not popular and was discontinued in 1919. However, some states still chose to observe DST. In WWII it was brought back again with the idea that energy could be saved during wartime production. They actually kept the clocks an hour ahead between 1942 and 1945 and it was mandatory. However, after this time it was up to the states to decide if they would observe it our not. It wasn't until 1966 that congress passed the “Uniform Time Act” which specified that DST would begin on the last week of April and end on the last Sunday in October. States were still allowed to pass laws to opt out of it. However, after the energy crisis of 1973, Richard Nixon passed a law titled “The Emergency Daylight Saving Time Conservation Act” that required all states to spring forward and remain that way for fifteen months. Twice since then it was modified. In 1986, It was changed to begin on the first Sunday in April. In 2005 the “Energy Policy Act” was enacted, and Daylight Saving Time begins on the second Sunday in March, and ends on the first Sunday in November.

The idea was to save energy by tacking an extra hour of daylight onto the end of the day. However, most studies don't show any significant energy savings, and some show that it is actually worse in some cases.

In my opinion, I don't really see how the energy savings works, and wouldn't make a difference if you were taking businesses, such as retail stores, factories, office buildings, etc. into account. Most of professional buildings have lights on all day anyway and don't rely on daylight to help them save in their energy use. As for energy savings for the home, there doesn't appear to be good evidence of significant savings on this end neither, according to many studies that have been done.

Then, why do we do it? Many people tell me they like having it lighter later...but my question is this, is it really lighter later or is that an illusion? I might be in the minority of people who feel this way, but my inner clock isn't ever fooled in any way whatsoever by what a clock says. In fact my inner clock is just a complete non-conforming fuddy-duddy in every way. So, then I have asked the people who tell me they like it to stay lighter later what they think about just leaving it in DST mode all the time. But then you hear about the kids who have to be at the bus stop at 6:15 a.m. in the fall, and honestly you don't even want to get me started on asking why school has to start so early. Really you don't. Remember my writing style is “prolific” to say the least (a nice way of saying it), and unless you want 1500 more words in this blog, don't ask. Seriously.

Another thought is that it is safer if people are driving home from work or school when it is still light outside. But that hour of darkness doesn't just disappear, and it must go somewhere because the universe works that way. You really can't get rid of it, I tried. It just gets pinned on to the other end of the day.

In these busy modern times, people are commuting either in the dark or at twilight, whether it is morning or evening anyway. The setting sun can just be shifted to a rising sun when we make that change. Maybe the thought of having the setting or rising sun directly in your eyes is a better thing than darkness. I kind of like the sizzling feeling in my retinas as I drive into the sun after getting up at 4:30 a.m. (and it is really 3:30 a.m. according to my very accurate, stubborn inner clock). Trying to keep my eyes open after a lack of sleep is a true test of my stamina and endurance and is just plain fun, or not. Safer? I can honestly say as a former commuter from Watsonville to Fremont, I drove home feeling drowsy many times after either time change, despite my best efforts. Many times I had to stop and rest, and believe me I am in the minority of those who will stop and rest. Most people just keep going and will drive half-asleep or half-awake. However you fill that cup, it certainly isn't safe. This wasn't just a day or two after the time change, this would last on and off for a month or so before I could gradually adjust to the change. It doesn't sound safer to me.

So, then you might ask, why don't I go to bed earlier? Well I do, but my mind does not work that way, and I don't think I am alone in this. Also, if you happen to have kids, I can pretty much bet that their schedules don't work on a clock neither. Just try telling a baby who decides it is time to be all cute and giggly at 3:00am to look at the clock and save it for later. Let me just say that if you have four children, well then you can pretty much toss any clock out the window (or through a window if you are tired and cranky enough).

What is the solution? I say leave it one way or the other. Personally, I don't mind either way. However, what I do mind is having to give up an hour and then take it back each year. Giving that hour is not easy for me, I really love that precious hour. But once it is gone, it is gone and I can move on, except I can't if you keep returning it to me just to rip it away a few months later. So you guys decide which you want to keep, and I will be happy. Just let me know. But always remember, whatever you decide, there is no “s” at the end of “Saving”, and if you use an “s” the grammar police will arrest you. That happened to me once, it was brutal.

If Ben Franklin can write a tongue-in-cheek letter to a publication, and one day that is actually adopted and used by the federal government, then it is all I can do to try to do the same for the sake of saving us all from this madness. Just an idea whose “time” has come.

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David H. Perez March 11, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Valerie, I agree with you. I have never seen the logic in switching back and forth. My personal preference would be to make daylight saving time permanent. I like having the daylight extend later into the evening in the summer, which affords more opportunity to work in the yard in the evening, or to simply relax in the back yard and barbeque. Either way, the daylight hours will lessen in the winter, so why bother switching the clocks back again???
Valerie Lemke March 12, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Thanks for your comments David. I also like it to be lighter when I get home in the evening when there is still time to enjoy some gardening, barbecuing or just time outside. That is true, the daylight is less in the winter anyway, at least it wouldn't be dark at 5:00. I remember some times of the year I would get to work in the dark and leave in the dark.
Valerie Lemke March 12, 2012 at 01:43 AM
If we have to keep doing this torturous clock switching routine, wouldn't it be nice if Daylight Saving Time arrived in the middle of the workday instead of taking an hour from our weekend? Maybe about 2:00 on a Friday afternoon we could make the switch to 3:00? But then in fall, it can come on the weekend as usual. Sounds good to me! (Unless we get rid of it completely, of course :-)
Kathy O'Mara March 12, 2012 at 05:49 AM
As a result of the 1973 oil crisis (look it up) "Year-round daylight saving time was implemented from January 6, 1974 to February 23, 1975. The move spawned significant criticism because it forced many children to commute to school before sunrise. The pre-existing daylight-saving rules, calling for the clocks to be advanced one hour on the last Sunday in April, were restored in 1976." So I remember this, and guess what, the sun didn't even RISE until about 8:00 in the morning in January. If you look at historical data from January 11, 2012, sunrise was at 7:20AM. If we had been on DST, sunrise would be at 8:20AM. My vote is to leave the time on Standard Time year round.
Valerie Lemke March 12, 2012 at 06:10 AM
I did mention that time during the energy crisis above in my blog, and it is a very good point to be considered. I vaguely remember when that happened, and in fact I was just trying to recall that time right before I read your comment. An 8:20 sunrise would be very late, that is true.
Linda Tenney April 11, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I enjoyed your letter. I agree with you. I have a 20 month old who used to wake up at 7:30am and play for an hour in bed but now she wakes up at 6:30am and cries. I blame it on the time change.
Cathy P. March 12, 2013 at 09:01 PM
@Valerie: it's just so nice to see you back blogging (I vote to leave it Standard Time also).
Denise March 13, 2013 at 04:37 PM
"I say leave it one way or the other. Personally, I don't mind either way. However, what I do mind is having to give up an hour and then take it back each year" I agree, wholeheartedly. My thoughts exactly.

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