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Why Does Daylight Saving Time Still Exist?

Why should daylight saving time rule your world?
March 8, 2013, 7:00pm

It's that time of year again. The time when I see all the positive tweets coming through in regards to daylight saving time. Originally introduced by Germany and the Central Powers to cut coal consumption during World War I, it's currently observed in about 70 countries.

Nowadays, people see little significance in springing forward, and often question the rationale behind it. That is why, when I say it's the season for positive DST tweets, I'm specifically talking about the brief flash of optimism people display before they change their clocks. People just can't wait for that extra hour of daylight in the spring, and say things like:


I hate losing an hour of sleep but it's so worth it to gain an hour of daylight!! Here are some other chores to do…

— Lara Taylor (@AskForLara) March 8, 2013

Sunset today - 5:35pm.Sunset *next* Sunday - 6:45pm!Daylight Saving Time begins next weekend! #wcvb

— A.J. Burnett (@WXManAJB) March 2, 2013

But in politics, health, and academia, there are plenty of detractors that say daylight saving might not be worth saving. One vocal opponent is Missouri State Representative Delus Johnson, who wants to end the watch and clock switchery altogether. In short, he says we should spring forward this one last time, without ever falling back.

He wants Missouri–and other states willing to join a pact–to permanently adopt daylight saving time and call it Standard Time. He's sure that it'll increase economic development in the later part of the year; giving people a little more daylight to do their Black Friday shopping.

Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant at the National Bureau of Economic Research have argued that DST has had adverse effects on energy spending. They calculate some extra $10-16 million spent by Indiana due to time changes. Their research concluded it's probably a much bigger loss in other states.

A year ago, Motherboard's Kelly Bourdet reported on a health study that concluded DST might actually kill you. Chances of heart-attack were stated to increase by 10 percent on the days following the spring change, and to decrease by 10% after gaining the hour in the fall. Smithsonian Magazine followed suit:


Hospitals saw twice as many heart attack patients on the first day of Daylight Saving Time than on an average Sunday

— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) March 8, 2013

Sleep thievery isn't taken lightly. Whether you're collapsing on your Monday morning train ride or arriving an hour early to your dentist appointment (probably the worst situation imaginable), DST will always take the blame. It's like jet lag that you don't have to travel East or West to encounter. And then there are cases like the man who was magically arrested at the same time twice last year.

Thankfully for DST haters, these "can't wait for later sunsets!" tweets will soon subside. Within minutes of the time change (this Sunday, March 10th, at 2 AM), you'll see the unrelenting tweets pour in. Bars will close earlier, flights will be missed. People will go for weeks, blaming their miseries on daylight saving time.

But people will complain about anything. In the fall, when the extra hour might seem useful, the bother then becomes insomnia. I paid close attention this past November and gleaned some of the dismay:

The sun is basically just mocking me right now. #DaylightSavings

— Women's Humor (@WomensHumor) November 6, 2012

@dayllghtsaving is following me? I don't have time for this

— Angela (@angelybeans) November 6, 2012

With all due respect to daylight savings. Screw you. Messing up my sleeping schedule

— Jonathan Diehl (@JonWDiehl) November 5, 2012


Two things I truly hate: rain and daylight savings.

— Ride BMX Magazine (@RIDEBMX) November 17, 2012

DST is more complex than love and hate. For every spring forward hater, there's one that refuses to fall back. Some are in between, applauding both or holding one in favor against the other. According to one of its earliest proponents, William Willett, the argument was to secure 210 extra hours of daylight while generating an economic recovery for the UK. But doesn't that simply depend on how and when you go about your day?

I suppose legislatures like Delus Johnson are right to interrogate the conundrum. It could finally be time to talk about the efficacy of Daylight Saving in a modern context. If it's killing people and wasting electricity, and if it has been abandonded by Arizona and a handful of nations, then maybe the remaining players should take the extra hour to re-evaluate the ol' switcheroo and determine if Daylight Saving is worth saving.

Top image via Garycycles4 on Flickr