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Save the Daylight

Yay for Daylight Saving Time! Except for dancing in the dark, daylight makes us happy. Seeing some light at the end of a long work day feels as if we still have plenty of time to ourselves.

Daylight Saving Time (notice the correct terminology is “Saving” not “Savings”) has a long history and a mixed bag of pros and cons. The main intent for it is to save energy. If we use less energy to light our world, how can it not result in savings?

Modern Daylight Saving was first proposed in 1895 by a New Zealander named George Vernon Hudson and implemented in Germany in 1916 to conserve coal during World War I. The U.S. officially adopted DST during that time as well.

Then the U.S. program got tweaked along the way. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson called for Daylight Saving time to begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October each year. Ronald Reagan amended this program to begin at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and end at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October. Finally, President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that extended DST by four weeks.

DST does save energy in the evenings, but this may be offset by more consumption in the mornings. Also, some parts of the world benefit more than others. Although DST helps to save energy in cooler climates, there is increased demand in warmer ones. Little impact is seen in areas closer to the earth’s poles such as Iceland and Alaska and near the equator where there is only a small variation in daylight through the year.

Some of the disadvantages of the time changes include the confusion over meetings and appointments in neighboring areas with different time zones as there is in the state of Indiana. Overall, DST causes disruption to scheduling, travel, sleep patterns, and we also have the time, expense, and inconvenience of physically changing the clocks. Farmers see some disadvantageous because grain is best harvested after dew evaporates and cows are sensitive to the timing of milking.

And there is some impact on our health. More daylight allows more exposure to the sun and an increased chance of developing skin cancer. And interestingly, heart attacks increase the first three weekdays after the spring transition.

But the extra daylight is believed to benefit retailers and centers for outside sports and activities as well. In addition, DST results in a slight reduction in traffic fatalities and accidents involving pedestrians. It also reduces violent crimes in some categories. And there does appear to be fewer fires because of the practice of replacing batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when we change the clocks.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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