A wonderfully comprehensive history of DST is available. It goes back to Ben Franklin's original proposition, through the widespread but inconsistent adoption in the first and second World Wars (including "Double Summer Time" -- two hours ahead in Britain), to today's whacky implementation. They list all the world's idiosyncrasies in adopting this "standard" -- from the 30 minute increments in India, to China's "one-time" policy, to the mess that is Indiana. Here's more:
Part of the confusion is because the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, but it is not as politically desirable. In fact, scientifically misguided politicians sometimes misunderstand. In 1995, the British Time (Extra Daylight) Bill was introduced by John Butterfill, attempting the impossible -- to legislate extra daylight. The bill did not pass...
Daylight Saving Time "makes" the sun "set" one hour later and therefore reduces the period between sunset and bedtime by one hour. This means that less electricity would be used for lighting and appliances late in the day.
...Following the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, Congress put most of the nation on extended Daylight Saving Time for two years in hopes of saving additional energy. This experiment worked, but Congress did not continue the experiment in 1975 because of opposition -- mostly from the farming states.
In 1974, Daylight Saving Time lasted ten months and lasted for eight months in 1975, rather than the normal six months (then, May to October). The U.S. Department of Transportation -- which has jurisdiction over Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. -- studied the results of the experiment. It concluded:
Daylight Saving Time saves energy. Based on consumption figures for 1974 and 1975, The Department of Transportation says observing Daylight Saving Time in March and April saved the equivalent in energy of 10,000 barrels of oil each day -- a total of 600,000 barrels in each of those two years.
Daylight Saving Time saves lives and prevents traffic injuries. The earlier Daylight Saving Time allowed more people to travel home from work and school in daylight, which is much safer than darkness. And except for the months of November through February, Daylight Saving Time does not increase the morning hazard for those going to school and work.
Daylight Saving Time prevents crime. Because people get home from work and school and complete more errands and chores in daylight, Daylight Saving Time also seems to reduce people's exposure to various crimes, which are more common in darkness than in light.
The Department of Transportation estimated that 50 lives were saved and about 2,000 injuries were prevented in March and April of the study years. The department also estimated that $28 million was saved in traffic accident costs.
Well, that's all well and good, but who's going to adjust my VCR? What's worse, now that we've let the governments of the world dictate what time it is, we're headed down the slippery slope. Future possibilities:
- Changing the temperature in the winter, so it seems warmer (encouraging more outdoor commerce)
- Adjusting spedometers in sports cars, so drivers think they're going faster (reducing traffic accidents)
- Change the definition of "causes of death" so to fuel the obesity crisis (wait -- they already did that)
You know those people who set their watches ahead by a few minutes, so they're never late? Why can't they just adjust their conception of time, instead? Daylight Savings seems to validate this laziness on a grand, state-enforced scale. I'm going to organize a protest march against DST. We'll meet at high noon, Sunday... whenever that is.