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Daylight Saving Time trivia: Check your wits about our bi-annual clock change

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Daylight Saving Time kicks in around here on Sunday March 9. The bi-annual practice of pulling our clocks off the wall and resetting microwaves is a must – otherwise we’ll be way late (or early, depending on the season) and have to make up excuses for our mismanaged timekeeping.

The Associated Press on Saturday reminds us that “winter has dragged on in much of the country,” but that Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a welcome sign that spring is close.

So we “fall back and spring ahead” with just about everyone else in North America and parts of Europe, but how much do we actually know about the clock manipulating practice?

Let’s find out.

The idea for daylight saving time is often incorrectly attributed to Founding Father and inventor Benjamin Franklin. Makes sense – the author and scientist’s groundbreaking work spanned everything from electricity to ocean currents to meteorology. He was also the first U.S. Postmaster General. (No, it wasn’t Wilford Brimley, Seinfeld fans.)

I’m tempted to ask you if Ben was ever a U.S. president, but I wont…

In 1784, while in Paris, Franklin anonymously published a satirical pamphlet called An Economical Project, which was a discussion on the thrift of natural versus artificial lighting. He suggested that getting up earlier, when it was lighter, would save on candles – not quite the modern DST as we know it.

But the real author of daylight savings was George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist. That’s right, the English-born New Zealander wanted more time to collect his bugs.

Explains his Wikipedia page: Hudson’s “shift-work job gave him leisure time to collect insects, and led him to value after-hours daylight. In 1895 he presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two-hour daylight-saving shift.”

So when did the U.S. actually adopt the light-saving practice?

Germany and its allies got on board in 1916 during World War I, mainly as a coal-conserving practice. But it wasn’t until the war was winding down, in 1918, that DST was adopted in the United States. On March 19, 1918, the Standard Time Act was established. But it quickly went away because it was so unpopular; Congress abolished DST, overriding a veto from President Woodrow Wilson.

Initially, each state was allowed to practice DST if they wished, which you can imagine caused some confusion. So the result was the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which mandated standard time within each of the established time zones and allowed for the advancing and turning back of time as we know it today.

There are a couple states that refuse to get on board however. Can you name them?

Hawaii and most of Arizona don’t observe it. Arizona tried it for one year starting in 1966, hated it, and never went back. Hawaii is closer to the equator and experiences much less variance in daylight, so they are all good out there in the Pacific.

Final question – There have been many studies on the health effects on DST, both pro and con. But here’s something strange: How is daylight saving time thought to affect the number of car accidents?

In 1995 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated a reduction of 1.2 percent in car accidents, and a 5 percent reduction in fatal car accidents involving pedestrians.

So tomorrow at 2 a.m. (or just when you go to bed tonight), set your clocks ahead one hour, and while we will lose a little sleep, know that you may have saved a life or two.

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