Benjamin Franklin did not invent Daylight Saving Time. Contrary to the popular myth, it was a single Canadian province that first used DST in 1908. And it wasn’t until the Germans began setting clocks forward and back by an hour in 1916 to save energy during WWI that it became popular. Franklin, for his part, simply wrote a joke to the Parisians, telling them they could get more use out of candles if people just woke up earlier.
Some 40%, or 70 counties around the world use some form of DST. In the United States DST started when Pittsburgh industrialist Robert Garland came across the idea of DST from European countries mired in WWI. Thinking it a good idea to save energy, we tried it and repealed it seven months later. But in 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt resurrected the measure. It became known as “War Time”. In fact, the time zones were “Eastern War Time”, “Mountain War Time”, and so on until they were relabeled “Peace Time” after Japan surrendered in August 1945.
Standardization in the 1960’s
Despite the war-time footing of the country, it was not standardized until the Uniform Time Act of 1966. That and later the 2005 Energy Policy Act allowed states to opt out (as Indiana did), but prohibited individual communities from doing so. The idea being to help establish consistency for bus, train, plane, and broadcast schedules. Ironically, it was the railroad companies that gave us the country’s first measure of what constituted a time zone. To keep trains running in daylight hours, time zones were roughly the width of how far a single train could travel in a day.
But does DST save us energy? Does it cost us more in productivity? Do we have more accidents in the spring when we lose an hour of sleep?
The answer to all of these is: yes and no.
Impact of Daylight Saving Time on driving
The National Center for Biotechnology Information looked at 21 years of driving data to discover the Monday following the “spring forward” shift saw more wrecks. Researchers presume this is because people are likely driving with an hour of less sleep. But the Monday after the “fall back” is equally dangerous, with a similar increase in wrecks. Researchers hypothesize people have a “behavior adaptation” and “spend” their hour of extra sleep by staying out even later the Saturday and Sunday before.
Research from the 21st century and Indiana on DST
Because Indiana is the only state to switch toward a DST shift in the 21st century, the best research we have comes from here. A 2011 Rose Hulman study shows there was a small but statistically significant increase in monthly employment numbers in counties that began shifting their times.
The University of California Santa Barbara economists calculated Indiana’s move to DST in 2006 increased energy consumption by 1% thanks to additional demand for air conditioning in the summer evenings and heating in the fall mornings. They also argued that increased recreation during daylight results in more gasoline consumption — which may or may not be a bad thing.
One study even concluded there may be a drop in robberies because people are “too groggy to commit crime”.
While an argument in favor of DST is helping kids stand at bus stops in the daylight, most school schedules don’t align close enough to daylight for the majority of the late fall and winter to make a difference.
Stay safe on Monday morning after DST
What we do recognize is traffic wrecks do increase, at least temporarily. So don’t “spend” your hour of “extra” sleep this weekend by staying up even later. Make sure your alarms are set properly and give yourself an extra few minutes on the way to work come Monday morning, just to help you remove that extra bit of stress on the way to work.