Saturday, November 28, 2015

Should we have Daylight Saving Time all year long?


Everyone appreciates the long light evenings. Everyone laments their shrinkage as the days grow shorter, and nearly everyone has given utterance to a regret that the clear bright light of early mornings, during Spring and Summer months, is so seldom seen or used.

- William Willett
From The Waste of Daylight, pamphlet, Sloane Square, London, 1907


As I write this, it is late November.  The "Death Month" is upon us.  The trees are bare and the ground is awash in brown leaves.  By moving the clocks back an hour, we have made a gloomy month even gloomier.  We have deprived ourselves of some precious evening light - and for what good reason?  It doesn't have to be this way.  Why not retain Daylight Saving Time all year on a permanent basis?

One of the delights of summer is that one can enjoy some brightness later in the day.  It's a joy to lounge out on a patio or a veranda in the evening.  That's one of the reasons I sit here wistfully yearning for DST all year long.  Permanent Daylight Saving Time makes sense.  Evidence has shown that it is conducive to human health and safety, as well as environmentally friendly.

Daylight Saving Time is not a new concept.  Ancient civilizations, such as the Romans, coordinated their daily schedules with the sun.  In 1784, American statesman, inventor and author Benjamin Franklin composed an essay called "An Economic Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light."  The essay, published in The Journal of Paris, suggested, albeit  tongue-in-cheek, that Parisian citizens could save money on candles by awakening earlier in the morning and making use of natural sunlight instead.  It should be remembered, however, that Franklin merely proposed a change in sleeping habits and not a time shift.

It wasn't until 1895 that a British-born New Zealand scientist named George Vernon Hudson (1867 -1946) actually proposed Daylight Saving Time.  Hudson was an entomologist who authored illustrated books on New Zealand insects.  His shift work at the Wellington Post Office allowed him the leisure to collect and study the insects.  Since he valued evening sunlight, he became frustrated when early summer twilight interfered with his pursuit of bugs.

In 1895, Hudson  presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society in which he advocated moving clocks two hours ahead in the summer and then two hours back in the winter. His idea was ridiculed by many members of the society.  Eventually, however, T. K. Sidey, a parliamentarian, won support for "one hour summer time" which was tried in 1927.


George Hudson 

Another DST pioneer was William Willett (1856-1915), a British designer and builder of homes.  In 1905, Willett proposed the implementation of Daylight Saving Time.  He suggested that clocks should be set ahead 20 minutes on each Sunday in April and turned back by the same amount on each Sunday in September.

Willett, who was an avid golfer, desired more time on the links during evening hours.  He also wanted people to enjoy the morning sunlight.  It is said that Willett, who was also a keen horse rider, had a revelation while riding on the outskirts of London one morning in 1905.  The idea apparently came to him that the United Kingdom should move its clocks forward between April and October so that more Britons could bask in the abundant sunlight.  He was dismayed that so many Londoners were sleeping in rather than using the morning hours for leisure activities.  In 1907, at his own expense, he published a pamphlet entitled The Waste of Daylight in which he argued the case for summer daylight saving. Here is an except from his brochure.

The effect of this alteration would be to advance all the day's operations in summer two hours compared with the present system. In this way the early-morning daylight would be utilised, and a long period of daylight leisure would be made available in the evening for cricket, gardening, cycling, or any other outdoor pursuit desired.

Willett's plan attracted the attention of a Member of Parliament named Robert Pearce.  Pearce introduced a bill to the House of Commons in February of 1908 and the first Daylight Saving Bill was drafted in 1909.  The bill was put before the British Parliament several times and examined by a select committee, but it still did not pass.  It was opposed by many, particularly farmers.

Although William Willett failed in his attempt to persuade his fellow Britons to adopt DST, his efforts had real significance.  Pearce's 1909 DST bill never became British law, but it was the first attempt at a national level to adopt Daylight Savings Time.  Willett died in 1915 at the age of 58 without getting the opportunity to see his proposal come to fruition.  It wasn't until Britain's World War One enemy, Germany, adopted Daylight Saving Time, that Britain implemented "Summer Time."


William Willett 



Germany introduced Daylight Saving Time in order to save fuel by minimizing the use of artificial lighting. German clocks were turned forward on April 30, 1916.  Weeks later, Great Britain and many other countries did the same.  In 1918, DST was introduced in the United States largely due to the efforts of a man named Robert Garland. Garland, a Pittsburgh industrialist, had been so impressed by DST while in the United Kingdom that he became an ardent supporter of the idea.

On March 31,1918, Daylight Saving Time for came into effect in the United State to conserving vital energy resources and to allow workers more hours of functional daylight during the summer. Despite the war effort, DST was met with great public resistance.  In his book Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, author Michael Downing wrote, "When the Congress poked its finger into the face of every clock in the country, millions of Americans winced."  "United by a determination to beat back the big hand of government," said Downing, opponents of Daylight Saving Time "raised holy hell, vowing to return the nation to real time, normal time, farm time, sun time - the time they liked to think of as "God's time.""

In spite of public disenchantment, President Woodrow Wilson signed DST into law to support the war effort.  Below is a 1918 poster in which United Cigar Stores welcomes the Daylight Saving bill passed by the United States Congress.


Here in Canada, five cities used DST before 1918: Brandon, Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Hamilton, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec.  St. John's, Newfoundland used DST prior to 1918 as well, but Newfoundland did not join Canada until 1949.

After World War I, many countries reverted to Standard Time.  In the United States, Daylight Saving Time was only observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919.  It was quickly repealed by the U.S. Congress which, under pressure from agrarian interests, overrode President Wilson's veto.  Farmers fiercely opposed DST and were anxious to return to standard time as soon as possible.  In 1919, Daylight Saving Time became a local option.

World War II, however, sparked the return of Daylight Saving Time.  During the Second World War, year-round Daylight Saving Time was in effect in the U.S. from February 9, 1942 until September 30, 1945.  In Britain, "Double Summer Time" was applied during the war.  Clocks were turned two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) during the summer and one hour ahead during the winter.

From 1945 until 1966 there was no federal law with regard to Daylight Saving Time in the United States. After the war, the decision on whether to use DST was left to the discretion of individual states.  This created a great deal of confusion because millions of Americans were observing DST based on their own laws and customs. The broadcasting industry, as well as the transportation industry were adversely affected.  Something had to be done.

In 1966, the United States Congress approved Uniform Daylight Time Act to end the confusion.  It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 12th of that year. The new legislation stipulated that DST was to begin on the last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October. throughout the United States and its possessions.  Any state that wished to opt out could do so by passing a state law.

The energy crisis of the 1970s brought further changes.  In the wake of the 1973 oil embargo, the United States Congress extended Daylight Saving Time to a length of 10 months in 1974 and eight months in 1975.  In 2007, the Energy Policy Act of 2005  came into effect and DST was extended one month by the United States.  As a result, Daylight Saving Time currently begins on the second Sunday in March and lasts until the final Sunday of October in most of the U.S (Hawaii and Arizona exclued).  Canada has followed suit due to its economic social ties to its southern neighbour (one notable exception being he province of Saskatchewan which observes Central Standard Time all year).  The European Union currently follows the "Summer Time" period that was used in Britain for many years and DST begins on the last Sunday in March and finishes on the last Sunday in October.

Daylight Saving Time is now used in over 70 countries around the world, with beginning and end dates varying in each country.  Would it be such a stretch to implement all-year DST in those countries?  Does it have to take a major war effort or an energy crises to do so?

Here's why all-year Daylight Saving Time makes so much sense:

* All-year DST would allow us to do away with the dangerous practice of changing clocks.

Changing clocks is disruptive.  It interferes with sleep patterns and its ill effects can range from insomnia to moodiness.  It is extremely difficult for those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in which people suffer depression during specific times of the year. There has been a great deal of statistical evidence suggesting that time change is detrimental to human health and safety. Here are some examples:

Putting the clocks ahead and losing an hour's sleep has been shown to contribute to a greater number of car crashes and traffic deaths.  A study by Austin C. Smith at the University of Colorado at Boulder ("Spring Forward at Your Own Risk: Daylight Saving Time and Vehicle Crashes") examined detailed records in fatal traffic accidents in the United States, the change from DST to standard time and the effects of extending DST in 2007.  It found that during the first six days of Daylight Saving Time there were 302 deaths at a cost of $2.75 billion over a ten-year period. According to The Fatal Accident Reporting System, there was a 17 per cent spike in traffic fatalities on the Monday after the time shift.

Between 1968 and 1971, the United Kingdom experimented with all-year Daylight Saving Time. The practice was abandoned, apparently due to its unpopularity, particularly in the northern regions where farmers raise cattle and sheep.  Nevertheless, during that time, according to an October 25, 2015 article by Lauren Davidson in the Daily Telegraph, winter daylight made the roads safer. There was an 11 per cent reduction in traffic fatalities in England and Wales during the hours affected by the time change, as well as a 17 per cent reduction in Scotland.

Those who work at physically demanding jobs, such as miners, are more at risk when clocks are changed.  According to a March 10, 2014 article in The Atlantic magazine by Rebecca J. Rosen, "the Monday following the switch to Daylight Saving Time ranks among the days when Americans are the most under-rested: On average, Americans sleep 40 minutes less the Sunday night following "springing forward.""  That affects workplace safety.  Rosen cites a 2009 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology in which 576,292 mining injuries from 1983 to 2006 were examined.  Here is what the results of the study by Christopher M. Barnes and David T. Wagner of Michigan State University revealed:  On the Monday after the switch to DST, the number of on-the-job injuries increased by 5.7 per cent over an average Monday.  In addition, Barnes and Wagner found that the injuries were more severe.  The number of work days missed due to a post-DST Monday increased by 67.6 per cent compared to injuries sustained on other Mondays.

There is also evidence that changing the time on our clocks results in a higher percentage of heart attacks.  According to research released by the American College of Cardiology in in March of 2014 (based on information from Michigan hospitals between between 2010 and 2013, the number of patients admitted for heart attacks increased by 10 per cent on the Monday following the changing of clocks to DST.

In 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a 20-year Swedish study that indicated a higher rate of heart attack (a seven per cent increase) in the first three workdays after clocks were moved ahead in the spring.  Researchers attributed this to the loss of one hour of sleep. They also noted a similar decrease in the number of heart attacks when clocks were turned back in the fall.

*  All-year DST would reduce energy use.

Daylight Saving Time reduces the use of artificial lighting in he evening.  People are much more likely to shop or dine at a restaurant


* All-yer DST would reduce crime.

When Daylight Saving Time ends in the autumn, criminals take advantage of the extra hour of evening darkness to commit robberies.  According to a study published on October 20, 2015 in The Review of Economics and Statistics, robberies increase by 7 per cent over the whole day, with a 27 per cent increase n the hours during and immediately after sunset.  There was, however, no evidence of a corresponding increase in morning thefts.


* All-year DST would help retail businesses.

It's no secret that most retail businesses favour daylight saving time.  People are more inclined to shop or dine at a restaurants when there is light in the early evening.

* Under year-round DST, farmers wouldn’t have to subject cows to an arbitrary change in milking schedule, although they would have to awaken really early to collect their milk and eggs.

Farmers and rural residents are more likely to oppose year-round DST.  Their voices should be heard and, as much as possible, reasonable accommodations should be made to meet their needs. Although the world is becoming increasingly urbanized, that doesn't mean that inconveniences to farmers should be ignored or that their grievances should be given little consideration.

There is also a valid concern about students leaving for school in the dark (assuming school hours would remain the same under all-year Daylight Saving Time).  However, greater safety measures and other solutions could be found to alleviate this problem.  Remember too, that when there is an hour less daylight in the evening, many workers must return home from their places of employment in the dark.

There is no perfect solution to the problem of Daylight Saving Time.  I am well aware that many people would be dissatisfied and inconvenienced if DST were implemented all year long.  I admit to my own biases.  Although I am a night hawk, I realize that many enjoy the sun in the morning.  There is absolutely no way of pleasing everyone, though, and the benefits of all-year Daylight Saving Time outweigh the disadvantages.

One thing is certain. Moving clocks forward or backward is a hazardous practice and should be abolished.  Enough evidence has been compiled to show that it is not in the best interests of the populace. The real choice is between all-year Standard Time and all-year DST.  Some of DST's most ardent detractors are more upset about having to adjust  to the one hour time change rather than DST itself.  After carefully weighing all the pros and cons, it is reasonable to conclude that all-year Daylight Saving Time is more beneficial than all-year standard time and far better than the present system of changing our clocks twice yearly. Permanent Daylight Saving Time is not a perfect solution, but it's the best solution.


- Joanne