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Why Do We Have Daylight Savings?


Every year in the mid-spring, most U.S. states and regions of Europe and South America lose an hour of sleep as they “spring forward” or experience daylight savings time. While this has been the norm for several decades, there are discussions in place to forgo this habit.

Before diving into the cases for and against daylight savings, let’s start with some background information.

Why was daylight savings implemented?

In the U.S. daylight savings was introduced during World War I as a means of saving energy. In theory, people would spend more time outdoors since there would be more hours of daylight and people would not use as much electricity inside. It had been introduced by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 but didn’t stick until the 20th century.

At first, it was only practiced once a year in the spring. It was federally mandated in 1918 but was later left up to the states to determine if they wanted to keep it or not. Currently, Hawaii and most of Arizona are the only states in the U.S. that do not practice daylight savings.

Some see the biannual occurrence of changing the clocks as an inconvenience and an overall unnecessary practice.

What are the arguments for keeping daylight savings?

The Department of Transportation has a list of reasons for why they choose to observe daylight savings, with the first being in line with the reason it was introduced: it saves energy.

As clocks are set one hour ahead in the spring, there are more hours of daylight. The sun sets later which reduces the amount of electricity households need. In the mornings, the sun is usually out when most people wake up which further reduces the need to turn on lights.

The second reason is its life-saving capabilities. More people commute to work during the daylight which reduces car accidents. Visibility on the roads is much better during daylight than relying on street lights.

Lastly, it reduces crime. Crimes are more likely to be committed during the nighttime. Since people are out more during the daylight hours, they are less likely to come into contact with crime.

Not all states think these reasons are worth the clock-fixing hassle, and some individuals are beginning to feel the same way. Let’s look at the other side of the argument.

What are the arguments against daylight savings?

The downsides of daylight savings are seen in the fall when the clocks are set back. It’s nice and bright in the mornings, but the sun sets before dinner time.

Once daylight savings begins in the spring, many experience weariness associated with losing an hour of sleep. In a study examining car accidents from 1996 to 2017, it was found that there were 6 percent more fatal car accidents in the week following daylight savings than in weeks prior. This can be attributed to the initial pitch black mornings once the clocks are set forward an hour.

Seasonal depression is real and it affects millions of people. Studies have made associations between daylight savings and an increase in depressive episodes. Not switching the clocks would allow more daylight in the colder months and could potentially prevent some large-scale cases of depression.

It’s worth thinking about your opinion on daylight savings. Since it has been the norm in almost all states, there hasn’t been much room for changing the practice. Individuals have their own opinions on the matter, but it is the decision of individual states on how they want to continue following or not following daylight savings.

Sources:

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/08/when-and-why-daylight-saving-time-started-in-the-us.html

https://www.transportation.gov/regulations/daylight-saving-time

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/02/well/live/fatal-car-crashes-rise-with-spring-clock-reset.html

https://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2017/05000/Daylight_Savings_Time_Transitions_and_the.7.aspx



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