Is daylight saving worth saving?

As the first weekend of spring break unraveled itself (in more ways than one for a few people), a more subtle change took effect. Though you probably didn’t notice it if you were one of the lucky (or unlucky) few who stayed back in Arizona, the rest of the country shifted forward an hour and entered the realm of daylight savings time.

Humans have tried to standardize time for thousands of years now, marking its passage with clocks and calendars based on various natural phenomena. This process is complicated further by different geographical locations and the incidental changes in season, as well as mankind’s inherent liking for stability and inertia to change.

Proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson, daylight saving time has since entered the common consciousness and become a part of everyday life in those parts of the world that follow it. Simply put, daylight saving moves clocks ahead by an hour during the spring and summer months in order to move an extra hour of sunlight from the mornings to the evenings, and delay sundown.

Numerous studies have shown that adopting daylight saving time in places where there is a considerable variation in sunlight between the summer and winter months results in minute energy savings and considerably fewer accidents and fatalities tied to traffic. However, many of daylight savings’ benefits are neutralized by the additional confusion and complication that shifting time twice a year entails.

Time zones by themselves are a necessary evil and need to be followed due to the sun’s vagrant nature. They are especially important in countries that stretch west-to-east across several thousands of miles; the imposition of daylight savings only adds an extra level of confusion to the conduct of everyday life.

Some of this complexity manifests itself in the form of automated systems used to make the switch to and from daylight savings time more manageable. A 2007 article in The New York Times that appeared around the time that Congress extended daylight savings time by a month detailed some of the problems with switching time standards, going as far as to label this a “Mini-Y2K” problem.

The article also remarked on the complications of observing daylight savings time at different times in different parts of the world, with the United States being out of sync with most of Europe. An added complexity is that a majority of the world’s population does not follow daylight savings, since most of Asia and Africa do not observe it.

Here in Arizona, where we could really do without an extra hour of sunshine during the long summer afternoons, it would seem that the right call was made in resisting the temptations of daylight savings time. Is it time we made the rest of the country see the light of day?

Kartik hates daylight savings because it took away a precious hour out on the Strip in Las Vegas this spring break. Tell him what daylight saving time stole from you at kartikt@asu.edu


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