You love the extra hour of sleep each fall, yet lament driving home from work in the dark. Then in the spring, the whole situation gets flip-flopped. Learn more about the origins of Daylight Saving Time.
What is Daylight Saving Time?
To make better use of natural daylight and to conserve energy, Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a seasonal time change where clocks are set ahead of standard time in the spring (Spring Forward) usually by one hour. In the fall, the clocks are wound back and we experience the “gaining” of an hour. Whether we use that extra hour productively is debatable.
When did Daylight Saving Time start?
Tales of a New Zealand entomologist in the late 19th century, and even a Ben Franklin quip about reducing candle wax use over a hundred years earlier, are often credited with the birth of Daylight Saving Time, but Germany and Austria were the two countries that ushered in Daylight Saving Time back in 1916 “during World War I to decrease energy used for lights and help conserve energy supplies to help the war effort,” per CBS News. DST began in the United States in 1918, one of the facts you probably never knew about Daylight Saving Time.
Does every country use Daylight Saving Time?
Nope, not even half of the countries in the world adjust their clocks. According to TimeandDate.com, 60-percent of countries—including most in the tropics, “because day length variations are negligible the closer you are to the equator”—do not use Daylight Saving Time. Today, only 70 countries still use DST, but those twice-annual time tweaks impact over 1 billion people, most of whom complain on social media each spring about being exhausted in the dark of morning.
So what was the point of DST anyway?
Initially, the idea behind Daylight Saving Time was to conserve energy and reduce artificial light. Daylight Saving Time, “maximizes sunlight hours during the longer days of the year (aka summer) by taking an hour of morning sun, when many are sleeping, and adding it to the end of the day,” according to National Geographic. With more sunlight during the awake hours of the day, we should, in theory, need less energy to run lights and such. But many now doubt the energy conservation benefits of DST.
Does Daylight Saving Time actually conserve energy?
Thanks to our phones, laptops, TVs, and other electrical appliances running all day and night, regardless of what DST does to the actual time of sunrise and sunset, Daylight Saving Time is no longer helping us conserve energy. In addition to the lack of energy reduction, DST may actually be making us unhealthy. The springing forward and falling back of the clocks every year may be putting people at a greater risk for strokes, and car accidents.
Can states opt out of Daylight Saving Time?
Some states already do not observe the annual change in time, but Hawaii and most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam are the exceptions to the rule. That doesn’t mean however that states do not want to stop resetting their clocks twice a year, but changing time doesn’t come easy. While “states can choose to exempt themselves from daylight saving time, nothing in federal law allows them to exempt themselves from standard time,” according to CBS News. The hurdle states need to leap over to either opt out of Daylight Savings Time or make DST permanent is the Uniform Time Act. These are the states that don’t observe DST.
What is the Uniform Time Act?
Enacted in 1966, the Uniform Time Act established a system of uniform Daylight Saving Time throughout the United States and its territories. Additionally, the Act allows for either Congress or the Secretary of Transportation to change a time-zone boundary (time zones were created with the 1918 Standard Time Act.)
Halloween sweets swayed our clocks
Daylight Saving Time has been adjusted several times since the Uniform Time Act of 1966. Twenty years in, Congress extended DST from its original six-month duration to seven. This change moved up the start date to the first Sunday in April while keeping the last Sunday of October as the end.
Falling back an hour right before Halloween however, didn’t please the sweets industry in 1986. Lobbyists for ‘big candy’ “planted candy pumpkins on the seats of every U.S. Senator at the time, hoping to sway them to extend daylight saving a little longer so there would be an extra hour of sunlight for trick-or-treating,” reports NBC News.
Candy retailers were sweeter on congress in ’07 when DST was extended again, on the front and back end, to its current eight-month span.
Today, the proposals to eliminate DST draws the ire of outdoor businesses, with the golfing and barbecue industries opposing the potential loss of that precious extra hour of daylight. Time, it turns out, is big business.
Should states stay on Daylight Saving Time for good?
Instead of opting out of Daylight Saving Time, some states and advocates favor staying on DST all year round. This would mean we never “fall back” again and keep the extra hour of daylight during traditional “awake hours.” Evening light, it is argued, has positive health benefits with more time for physical activity and participation in organized sports and other activities. In order to accomplish this permanent time change though, Congress would have to amend the Uniform Time Act, reports National Geographic.
Rare bipartisan support for permanent DST
Bipartisan support for anything is a rarity today, yet a bill with sweeping bipartisan support, the Sunshine Protection Act, has passed in Florida and a popular vote majority exists in California. Furthermore, pending bills in Oregon and Washington demonstrate a surge of national interest and desire in doing away with the clock adjustments and living life on Daylight Saving Time permanently. In the early morning of March 11 of this year, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!” although, for now at least, you should still expect to give back that hour at 2 a.m. ET on November 3, 2019.