And it sounds like you do, too
Spring. Daylight. Forward. Change. These words all individually invoke positivity and renewal. They remind us of the potential of bettering ourselves and opportunities to seize life to the fullest. I think that’s why some marketing masochist decided to brand one of the most loathsome times of the year – daylight savings – as “spring forward”. And if you want someone to blame, blame the Germans.
Although Benjamin Franklin is first credited with the idea due to a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, daylight time was first popularized by the Germans in 1915. It was then quickly adopted by Britain, much of Europe and Canada. In Franklin’s letter, entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” he suggests Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning. Recent research on the letter also concludes that Franklin was likely making the suggestion as a joke.
Originally conceived as a tool for energy conservation, the first large study of the effectiveness of daylight savings was undertaken by the U.S. Department of Transportation during the oil crisis in the 1970s. It was found to trim national energy consumption by 1 per cent. And an October 2008 report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Energy that examined 67 utilities across the United States concluded that the four-week extension of daylight time saved about 0.5 percent of the nation’s electricity per day, or 1.3 trillion watt-hours in total.
But according to a Scientific American article in March 2009, many studies now question that energy conservation argument. In fact, the article references a 2006 study undertaken in Indiana when the state implemented daylight savings time for the first time. The Indiana study found that in an era of increased technology and electronics use at home, daylight time increased statewide residential energy consumption by 1 per cent and cost the state an extra $9 million. Other studies have shown that daylight time may have an impact on our health. Swedish researchers in Stockholm looked heart attack rates in Sweden since 1987. The first week following daylight time saw a 5 per cent increase of heart attacks. A 2008 article in the New England Journal of Medicine theorizes that the disruption of biological rhythms and sleep patterns may contribute to this increase.
But we are better drivers during daylight and a 2007 B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy study that assessed 28 years of automobile accident data, found that there was a 6 to 8 per cent decrease in crashes for vehicular occupants in April after daylight savings moved to the first weekend of the month from the last.
But within all these studies and debates among academics is the simple fact: there are not many conversations you will have with people where they are in favour of daylight savings time.
The only easy thing about it is that it is simpler to move the clock in your car forward in the spring and in the fall you’re driving around an hour ahead of schedule for two months. In fact, most people would prefer to pick one time zone and stay in it, but we continue to flip-flop time zones, for seemingly no other reason than we’ve always done it. The persistence of daylight savings time almost reinforces the belief in some shadow organization making decisions.
I’m inclined to blame the Stonecutters of Simpsons fame and add a new line to their infamous song, “Who keeps daylight savings time?/We do, we do!”