Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins on Sunday, March 12, when our clocks spring ahead an hour, giving us an extra hour of daylight.
At the end of the day, we’ll be glad to see the sun still shining. The saved hour of daylight will stay with us until Sunday, Nov. 5, when we fall back an hour.
“Messing” with the time has been part of life in the U.S. since World War I, after other countries embraced it to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power. After the war it was repealed in some states, then reinstituted in World War II.
“We have it because it has many benefits,” said Dr. David Prerau who is an expert on daylight saving time. His book, “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time,” analyzes the history, science and politics of DST. “We get to move the clocks ahead in the spring and summer and not have very dark mornings.”
He said one of the biggest reasons DST is in effect in many countries is energy usage — DST reduces energy use across the world in the more than 70 countries that follow DST. However, if you live in Hawaii or Arizona, you won’t follow DST.
“It reduces traffic accidents, crime and it’s been found to be good for public health because people get outdoors,” he said. “Most people like to have the extra light at the end of the day,” he said, adding that through his research he’s found that a lot of people like the extra hour in the evening. “It’s better for their quality of life.”
Prerau’s research with DST took place in the Department of Transportation, where he said he took part in the most comprehensive study about time saving.
“Those kinds of benefits are transitional,” he said. “But the (daylight) benefits last for months.” The effects from changing the clock only last for a few days as people quickly become adjusted.
“That’s the tradeoff. It’s really no different than flying from Chicago to Philadelphia.”
Prerau said the primary group of people against DST are those in the agriculture community because, he said, they have to follow the sun, no matter what the clock says.
Their Washington, D.C. lobby fought against it for years. However, he said due to technological advances in farming, they have become less dependent on sunlight over the years.
In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which extended DST by one month.
“It’s almost become easier to adjust over the years,” he said, noting that most people don’t even have to adjust their clocks to DST. “It’s done for you by your computer or your smartphone.”