Daylight saving time (DST) has become one of those things that everyone loves to hate. Many of us dread having to adjust our internal clocks to accommodate this shifting of time and it can take a while for our systems to recalibrate—especially when we lose an hour of sleep in the spring. We also grumble about how early it gets dark in the winter—when the return to standard time coupled with the shorter days of winter can make it seem like we barely have daylight at all. But it’s not just our bodies and our moods that take a beating, so too does the overall economy. This may leave you wondering why we have DST in the first place.
DST and car accidents
Arguably the highest toll of DST is human life. When a person is tired after the time change, they may make poor decisions or have delayed reflexes and response times; this can be particularly dangerous behind the wheel. In a 2016 study published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Austin Smith, an assistant professor of economics at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University, looked at the impact DST had on fatal car crashes. “My results imply that from 2002 to 2011 the transition into DST caused over 30 deaths at a social cost of $275 million annually,” Smith wrote in the summary of his findings.
DST and health risks
Other experts have looked at the health risks that seem to be connected to the time change. Studies have found an increased risk of heart attacks in the days immediately following the “jump ahead” shift in spring. Likewise, there also seems to be a higher chance of having a stroke during this period. Find out 12 things you never knew about DST.
DST and accidents on the job
In other research, SleepBetter.org created a Lost-Hour Economic Index by compiling and analyzing data related to the financial cost incurred by the spring DST transition in the top 360 major metropolitan areas across the United States. According to the index, the residents of Morgantown, West Virginia experienced the highest financial losses of all the cities studied, to the tune of $445,685 or $3.40 per person. Morgantown is a coal mining hub, so when you consider that one study found that injuries to miners increased by almost six percent on the Monday after the shift to DST, it makes sense that the town ranks top of the list. Aside from the human toll of pain and suffering, these injuries translated into 2,600 workdays lost.
DST and productivity on the job
Daylight saving time can also be unhealthy for employers’ bottom line. Data shows the time change has a negative impact on productivity, including more employees “cyberloafing,” aka surfing the web aimlessly, while at work. This, combined with data about DST-related heart attack risks, led a group of researchers to put a price tag of more than $433 million a year on DST just from those factors alone.
DST and energy savings
What about those energy savings that were (according to some sources) the whole reason for starting this practice in the first place? Turns out, we may not be benefitting financially there, either. Some studies have shown that any energy saved at night is canceled out by the energy we use during dark hours in the morning. On the other hand, the U.S. Department of Energy reported to Congress in 2008, that extended DST (the length of time the U.S. observes DST was extended by four weeks in 2007) saved 1.3 terawatt-hours of electricity. That figure corresponds to a reduction of annual U.S. electricity consumption by 0.03 percent and overall energy consumption by 0.02 percent.
Next, read on to find out what would happen if we got rid of daylight saving time.