Sunday, March 09, 2008

Spring Forward

In most US locations, the clocks changed from Standard to Daylight Saving Time this morning. It is earlier this year than last and earlier last year than the year before. Which gives me pause for thought…

Has Daylight Saving Time outlived its usefulness? Okay, I’m not just cranky because I lost an hour of sleep last night… I am going to make it up today. It is just that I have been reading of late how the original benefits of Daylight Saving Time have been offset of late by the drawbacks.

For the original reason that we started using DST, you have to look back to WWI England. Daylight Saving Time was developed to save electricity for lighting. This saved the coal that was used to generate that electricity so that it could be redirected to the war effort. DST was again employed at the time of the second World War, and again, it was to save electricity, thus saving the coal used to generate it so that it could be reallocated to the war effort.

The problem is that as of late, it no longer saves electricity. It now cost more than we save! Starting the day an hour later means there is another hour of cold, dark morning in the late winter/early spring which means we are running our heaters an hour longer. Conversely, in the summer time, the summer evenings mean that schools, work places, shopping malls, and homes need to be cooled a hour longer.

This is a side-effect that the original proponents of DST could not have foreseen. Very few homes and businesses are air-conditioned (as compared to the US) in present day Great Britain, even fewer were a hundred years ago.

Sure, there are ancillary affects to the time change, longer evening hours encourage people to go out and be active an hour longer after work, studies show that once the first few days of the change have been passed, rates of traffic accidents go down. But if it is these ancillary affects you want, why not stay on DST all year long? Presumably, you would see the traffic accident rate go down in December if it is down in July! (Which is not to point out that not changing back-and-forth between the two eliminates the bump we see in the traffic accidents when the time change occurs.)

It’s not a bad idea, this daylight saving time, just one whose original justifications are no longer valid. We should rethink how we practice it!

Wherever you are today, I hope that you are on time!

Don Bergquist – March 09, 2008 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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