Daylight saving ends this weekend with our traditional “fall back” to standard time on Sunday, November 3rd at 2 a.m. For most Americans, this offsets our “spring forward” that occurred back on March 10. Clock confused? You’re certainly not alone.
National Geographic on Monday answered some of the bi-annual questions that come up every time we start running around the house, winding the clock arms and resetting our digital alarms. Why do we spring forward and fall back? Does daylight saving time really save energy? Is it bad for your health?
Daylight saving started far longer ago than you might think. Although Ben Franklin was an early proponent, it was a New Zealand entomologist and astronomer by the name of George Vernon Hudson that is credited with developing modern daylight saving in 1895.
The bug collector valued his after-hours daylight, so he presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two-hour daylight-saving shift, which was well received and eventually adopted by Germany and Austria-Hungary starting in 1916 during World War I.
Here in the U.S., a 1918 federal law standardized daylight saving time, although not all states chose to observe it.
“During World War II the U.S. made daylight saving time mandatory for the whole country, as a way to save wartime resources. Between February 9, 1942, and September 30, 1945, the government took it a step further. During this period DST was observed year-round, essentially making it the new standard time, if only for a few years,” says National Geographic.
As for the question of saving energy, you’ll find arguments either way. In a 2008 report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Energy asserted that springing forward does save energy – approximately 1.3 terawatt hours of electricity. Extrapolated nationwide, that equates to just a fraction of total energy savings, hovering around the 0.03 percentile.
Those are some pretty minute numbers for being late to work with bags under our eyes. Nevertheless, we forge ahead with our changing timetables.
Here are five things you likely didn’t know about our daylight saving ways.
1. Heat attack rates actually increase across the U.S. during the first week after we transition from daylight saving, primarily when we lose an hour. The spike is attributed to the loss of an hour's sleep, some experts say, making our bodies slightly more susceptible.
2. Since more accidents occur at dusk and during nighttime, daylight saving actually reduces the number of accidents and pedestrians being hit by vehicles. “A study concluded that observing DST year-round would annually prevent about 195 deaths of motor vehicle occupants and about 171 pedestrian fatalities,” says US News Health.
3. Early on, daylight saving was so confusing here in the U.S., Congress had to step in and legislate a state-by-state law. Individual townships and cities were choosing whether or not to observe daylight saving; rural farmers hated the idea, but urban city workers loved it. Therefore, in 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, specifying that each state could decide, but once a decision was made, the entire state had to stick to it.
4. Ever wondered what happens to the television schedule when daylight saving time hits? Does a show that is scheduled to start at 2 a.m. start an hour early? Does the previous show get wiped out? Actually, each network acts as if there are two shows on at the same time. For example, this Sunday, there will be a show on at 2 a.m. on the previous schedule, and then once daylight saving starts, another show will be on at 2 a.m.
5. There are over 70 countries around the world now that follow some sort of daylight saving time. China and Japan are two of the largest countries that do not.