The startling stats about daylight saving time

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Many people accidentally forget to change their clocks when DST changes and are late or early to appointments, classes and more. Photo credit: Dallen Vick

“I would like the sun not to go down so early because it gets kind of dark early, so if we could do something about the rotation of the earth, the sun and stuff — that would be nice,” said Jacob Beaulieu, a BYU-Idaho student.

Changing the rotation of the earth sounds preposterous, yet this has never stopped humanity before. Twice a year we change the time the sun rises and sets, not by changing Earth’s rotation but by changing our clocks.

Throughout the complex and controversial history of daylight saving time (DST), clocks have been thrown into mismatched chaos, people have died, states have pushed against federal restrictions, and many BYU-I students have been accidentally late for class and church.

Why do we still practice this holdover from the World Wars, this unnecessary time change that does far more harm than good? More and more people have been asking this question, and it’s a question Scroll wants readers to ask themselves as well.

“The call to end the antiquated practice of clock changing is gaining momentum throughout the nation,” said Senator Marco Rubio in a press release about the Sunshine Protection Act, a bipartisan bill that would enact permanent DST for the entire country. slight annoyance. We at Scroll believe Idaho should create a bill for permanent DST to support the health, safety and happiness of its residents. We call on Idaho representatives Michael Simpson and Russ Fulcher to support the Sunshine Protection Act in Congress.

Having an hour time change twice a year is unnatural and harmful on both an individual and societal level. Implementing DST year-round solves that problem while bringing a whole host of benefits, including thousands of lives saved, countless lives improved, a boon to the economy, and more. It may be hard to wake up and go to an early class in the dark, but it’s worth it for what permanent DST can bring.

Most people only care about DST twice a year. It’s time to make it so we never have to care because we never have to change.

Basic Facts

But what is daylight saving time? Many people just leave it to their phone clocks to change correctly. The common phrases of “spring forward” and “fall back” may leave people uncertain or confused as to what that actually means.

One way to think of it is not as a twice-a-year event, but as two separate time zones we move between. DST is eight months of the year, from March 14 to Nov. 7. “Standard time” is the other four winter months. DST literally “saves daylight” by making the sun rise an hour later, creating an extra hour of daylight in the evening and thereby giving the impression that the day is lasting longer. When DST ends and we return to standard time, the time is changed so the sun rises an hour earlier again. This adds an extra hour of sleep on the night we jump back to adjust, but it also means that daylight suddenly seems to end much sooner.

The end of DST on Nov. 7 means the sun now sets an hour earlier.
The end of DST on Nov. 7 means the sun now sets an hour earlier. Photo credit: Dallen Vick

History

Before we examine the benefits of permanent DST, let’s fall back into history to examine where it all began.

DST was proposed as early as 1895 but didn’t really gain global popularity until Germany and Austria started using it in 1916.

The U.S. first joined the change with the Standard Time Act of 1918, which implemented DST as a way to save fuel during World War I. It had wide support, although according to The Congress Project, one representative did claim it would be mostly “for the relief of the slackers of the Nation who are too lazy to get up early.”

The Standard Time Act was repealed only a year later but returned as permanent DST during World War II. During the war, Britain kept their clocks forward by two hours, a “double summertime” to save electricity usage in the evenings and give workers time to get home before the blackout started. In the U.S., it was called “wartime,” a slightly less-friendly name, and it was also instituted as an energy saving measure. This year-round DST was also repealed after the war in 1945.

But in between all the repeals and the national reinstating, DST was a confusing mess, as many places continued the practice even after it officially ended. States and localities could start and end daylight saving whenever they pleased, a system that “Time” magazine named in 1963 “a chaos of clocks.” In 1965 there were 23 different pairs of start and end dates in Iowa alone, and St. Paul, Minnesota, even began daylight saving two weeks before its twin city, Minneapolis. Passengers on a 35-mile bus ride from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, passed through seven time changes.

The chaos ended in 1966 with the enactment of the Uniform Time Act, which standardized DST from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, although states had the option of remaining on standard time, year-round.

Now DST occurs in 70 countries and affects over 1 billion people.

Health & Safety

The effects of having an extra hour of daylight in the evening are much wider than most people realize.

A 2015 study found that when Congress extended DST by four weeks in 2007, robbery rates fell 27% during the extra hour of evening daylight, and 7% overall. There was also a significant decrease in attempted murder and rape during this time. Importantly, the study also found that robbery rates did not increase in the morning, even though DST meant sunrise was an hour later. Put simply, crimes happen less when there’s light, even criminals apparently don’t want to wake up early.

Besides protecting people’s safety, this decrease in crime also means an increase in money saved. The study estimated the additional month of DST saved $59 million per year in avoided robberies. If the social cost of crime is included, which means things like medical costs, prosecutions and police expenses, that number shot up to $246 million per year.

The numbers are clear — DST makes us all safer from attempted crimes, but also from each other, as a 2004 study found that year-round DST would reduce pedestrian traffic deaths by 13% during the morning and evening hours most affected by the time change. Overall, there would be approximately 366 fewer traffic deaths per year.

It’s true that an extra hour of daylight, whether in the morning or evening, will reduce traffic accidents. However, there are simply more people on the road in the evenings, so it’s more effective to have more daylight later rather than earlier, which is what DST does.

“There’s much more traffic in the evening rush hour than in morning,” said David Prerau, author and leading authority on DST, to Popular Mechanics. “The morning only has commuters; the evening has commuters plus people who are going out for other reasons.”

Besides saving lives, permanent DST would improve lives. Although the sun rising an hour earlier in the morning may be beneficial for early commuters, it has far more benefits in the evening. There, it increases vitamin D exposure, time outdoors, socialization with families and friends, and recreation time in general, all of which bring a host of health benefits. A lack of sun exposure is a huge problem in the world, especially during the winter months.

“The light we get from being outside on a summer day can be a thousand times brighter than we’re ever likely to experience indoors,” said melatonin researcher Russel J. Reiter in a study on the benefits of sunlight. “For this reason, it’s important that people who work indoors get outside.”

A 2017 study proved these benefits by showing that after the end of DST in the fall, instances of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) spiked 11%.

Economy

People spending more time outdoors is not only good for their mental and physical health, it’s good for the economy. Many industries that rely on outdoor recreation have been the largest lobbies for DST to be extended, and for good reason. Simply put, when there’s more light in the evening, people do more things in the evening.

Michael Downing is the author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time”.

In 1986, DST was extended from seven to eight months. Downing reports in the book that the barbeque grill and charcoal industries say they gained $200 million in sales from this extra month of daylight, and the golf industry gained an additional $400 million.

As Daylight Saving Time ends, many students find themselves suddenly facing an early sunset while walking to and from evening classes.
As Daylight Saving Time ends, many students find themselves suddenly facing an early sunset while walking to and from evening classes. Photo credit: Dallen Vick

The harms of changing time

Despite the data showing how many lives permanent DST would save and improve, there is still opposition. However, most of this opposition is actually a downside to changing times twice a year, which year-round DST would also solve.

Human arrogance claims we can change time to suit our needs, but our bodies are not so easily fooled. The stress of abruptly changing our schedules jars our internal clocks with real health consequences.

A 2014 study found that the change to DST in the spring, when an hour of sleep is lost, had “negative influence on general life satisfaction and mood.”

Another study found that the disruption caused a 17% increase in traffic accidents for the first week after the change. New York City analyzed the rate of pedestrian-involved traffic incidents and found the connection with the DST change so worrisome, the city spent $1.5 million in 2016 on a “dusk and darkness” safety campaign.

For most people, the time change is a slight annoyance at best. But for certain vulnerable populations that hour lost can be deadly. A 2014 study found a 24% increase in the number of heart attacks the Monday after DST begins in the spring compared to every other Monday in the year.

Last October, the American Academy of Sleep published a statement calling for the end of time-switching. It reads, in part, “An abundance of accumulated evidence indicates that the acute transition from standard time to daylight saving time incurs significant public health and safety risks, including increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, mood disorders, and motor vehicle crashes.”

The statement goes on to detail specific negative effects seen from the time change including increased suicide rates, stock market volatility and emergency room visits.

Other studies have also shown increased workplace accidents and a “significantly higher” rate of miscarriages with women undergoing in vitro fertilization after the springtime change in which an hour is lost.

A popular misconception is that DST was originally implemented for farmers. Barrett Gibson has homesteaded in Rexburg for about eight years and has personally experienced how the time change throws regular schedules off.

“The biggest thing is when you’re raising animals, they don’t look at clocks, they don’t have daylight saving time, so they don’t really care,” Gibson said. “They just know the sun’s coming up and they’re getting hungry.”

Opposition

Clearly, this jumping back and forth is not doing us any favors. But, as with anything, DST isn’t perfect.

Outdoor industries may lobby hard for its extension, but some industries like TV disagree. When people are spending more time outside, they’re spending less time inside on their electronics, and the onset of DST in the spring always results in a drop in viewers. And some farmers prefer more light in the morning rather than the evening to do their work.

Additionally, the American Academy of Sleep claims that standard time fits the natural human circadian rhythm better than DST. It’s true that the farther north you go, the later the sun rises, so the northernmost countries and states may prefer opting out of DST instead of having it year-round.

Politics

More and more people are beginning to realize this, and 19 states have passed legislation that would make DST observed year-round. However, due to the Uniform Time Act of 1966, states cannot actually implement these bills without a federal waiver — something no state has ever been granted. States can opt out of DST to observe standard time year-round, which Arizona and Hawaii have done. The other 19 states are waiting in limbo, unable to escape from the semiannual clock changes because DST is not considered a replacement for standard time, even though we observe it for double the amount of time we do standard time.

It’s been two years since Washington passed a bill to observe DST year-round, and Senator Patty Murray has had enough. Now that she’s helped attempt change in Washington, she’s moving to the federal level, co-sponsoring the “Sunshine Protection Act” alongside Senator Vern Buchanan in hopes that the usually divided lawmakers will be able to unite under this issue.

“Americans want more sunshine and less depression,” Murray said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Idaho is not isolated from this issue.

Senate Bill 1267, passed in 2020, states that when Washington is able to actually move to permanent DST, the parts of Idaho that are in Pacific Standard Time will follow suit. Why not have the entire state move to make DST permanent, rather than exacerbating the time zone difference within the state?

Newly elected City Council member Robert Chambers would support opting out of DST until the federal government allows states to follow it year-round.

“I just think that going back and forth is both annoying and frustrating to people,” Chambers said. “And I think we’re pretty good at adapting. If you tell us that it’s gonna be Mountain Standard Time going forward, we can adapt to that. If you tell us it’s going to be daylight standard time we can adapt to that. Just don’t make us go back and forth.”

Tori Olsen, a BYU-I student, agrees.

“I definitely think that we should stay on one track. It makes life a little more simple, makes life a little more pleasant. You don’t have to wake up early in the spring,” Olsen said. “I know everybody enjoys it in the fall, but it’s just better for everyone.”

Chambers and Olsen are not alone. An October 2021 survey by YouGovAmerica found that 63% of Americans want to stop changing the clocks twice a year. The poll also shows that the issue has bipartisan support, with little to no difference between party lines.

Where does this leave us?

For now, we are stuck in a limbo of frustrated states who are not allowed to change despite overwhelming support from residents and from science. But it’s not hopeless. Since Florida sparked the move towards permanent DST four years ago, pressure has built and built. Idaho should join the host of states working towards a permanent DST, either by a federal waiver or by changing the national time system.

Scroll readers can contact Idaho’s congressional representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson through their websites. BYU-I students from other states can find their representatives through the GovTrack website.

Feel free to send your officials a link to this article and let them know how DST has affected you. As more and more citizens let their officials know what they want, we can make change. We can also end it and support permanent DST instead.