Lifestyle

‘Fall Back’ This Weekend: Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time?

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This weekend, we will all “Fall Back” and set our clocks back an hour on Sunday, November 5. While for some, the extra hour of sleep is a welcome treat, for many, the disruption in our routines is just an annoyance. Why do we observe daylight saving time? Many people assume we enacted DST to help farmers, but that’s not the case.

The U.S. Adopted Daylight Savings Time During WWI

WWI

Photo: Flickr/Visit Flanders

While Benjamin Franklin was one of the first to consider the idea of daylight saving, it wasn’t implemented in the United States until World War I, when the U.S. first adopted daylight-saving time – called “Fast Time,” – in 1918 in support of the war effort.

During World War I, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States all pushed their clocks forward to better coordinate waking hours with light bulb use, thereby conserving electricity. The program lapsed until World War II when President Franklin Roosevelt instituted “War Time Zones,” which were basically the same thing. War Time Zones ceased at the conclusion of the war. Thereafter, time zones defaulted to municipalities until 1966, when Congress enacted a permanent annual Daylight Saving Time, in part to standardize all of the clocks across the nation.

Energy Savings vs. Gasoline Usage

gas pumps

Photo: Flickr/Allie Osmar Siarto

While one of the objects of daylight saving was to save energy, it doesn’t quite work out that way. According to National Geographic magazine, “When you give Americans more light at the end of the day, they really do want to get out of the house. And they go to ballparks, or to the mall and other places, but they don’t walk there. Daylight saving reliably increases the amount of driving that Americans do, and gasoline consumption tracks up with daylight saving.”

The Time Change Can Cause Health Problems

heart attack

Photo: Pixabay

While most people just feel a bit of annoyance from the disruption of their schedule and for having to go around the house, changing the time on every appliance and alarm clock, studies have shown that the time change can affect our health as well.

A 2012 study by University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Martin Young found that the risk of heart attack surges by 10 percent on the Monday and Tuesday after moving the clocks ahead an hour each spring. No one is quite sure why this happens, although one theory is that, “Sleep deprivation, the body’s circadian clock, and immune responses all can come into play when considering reasons that changing the time by an hour can be detrimental to someone’s health” according to the study.

Not All of the U.S. Observes Daylight Savings Time

daylight savings time

Photo: Pixabay/Monoar

Today, most states in the United States observe daylight savings time, except for Arizona, (although, the Navajo do observe daylight saving time on tribal lands in Arizona) Hawaii, and the overseas territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands. From 1970 until 2006, most of Indiana in the Eastern Time Zone did not observe daylight saving time, but the entire state started to do so in April 2006, after eight counties in western Indiana were shifted from the Central Time Zone to the Eastern Time Zone.

Since the idea was put in place, it has faced detractors and debate. Several states, including California and Rhode Island, are considering abolishing the practice. Legally, if a state decides to drop daylight saving time, it must then procure an exemption from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Love It or Hate It, DST Isn’t Going Anywhere

daylight savings time2

Photo: Flickr/Lara604

According to Quartz.com, there is a growing anti-DST movement, but they don’t have the organization to compete with the retail industry. The retail industry firmly supports daylight savings time, to encourage shoppers to go out and spend money with the extra daylight hours. The American economy has changed since the early days of DST. Now, retailers wield more power than the traditional voice of opposition – the farmers. Quartz.com points out that by 2000 more Americans lived on golf courses than farms.