Daylight Saving Time Is Stupid and Expensive and Dangerous

Back and forth, back and forth — why do we keep on with this insanity?

shutterstock_clocks-940x540

In addition to everything else you’ve got to remember for Halloween this year, remember to turn your clocks back an hour — all your clocks — because goddamned Daylight Saving Time will be messing up your life again. True, you’ll gain an hour of sleep. But that hour will be more than devoured by the time you expend adjusting every clock in your house, the clocks in your cars, the clock on the wall of your office, and, of course, the clocks at your mom’s house, because changing the clocks these days has gotten really hard.

You know what? That’s a lie, that part about gaining an hour of sleep. You’re not going to gain anything. The sun isn’t going to stay up any longer because of DST. All you’re doing is shifting an hour of darkness at the start of the day to the end of the day. And you only get to do that because last spring, you had your circadian rhythms thrown into chaos when the clocks sprang forward — a dumb expression albeit one beloved by news commentators, because clocks don’t just spring forward on their own. They have to be pushed or prodded or spun or clicked forward — by you.

Do you know why we have Daylight Saving Time (frequently and incorrectly referred to as Daylight Savings Time, like time is something you can take to the bank)? You always heard it was Ben Franklin, right? It was Ben Franklin, but he was making a joke. It was just one of the suggestions he made in a satirical article about how to get the lazy Parisians to wake up earlier. Some of the others? Taxing shutters, rationing candles, and firing off cannons at dawn. So, no. Just because it came from the brain of Ben Franklin doesn’t mean it’s right, or even serious. If he’d been serious, would he have published that article anonymously?

The guy who actually, seriously proposed Daylight Saving Time was an entomologist from New Zealand who wanted more afternoon hours in which to study native insects. The cause was then taken up by a clubby British golfer who wanted to fit in more holes at the end of the day. Notably, the campaigns of these two dilettantes never got off the ground.

But guess who did get Daylight Saving Time going? Germany and its World War I ally Austria-Hungary, who used it to conserve coal. As soon as the war ended, the Germans and everybody else dropped that idea like a hot potato and went back to good old standard time. Except in a few cities that continued DST as a local option. One of which, of course, was Philadelphia. The whole country reverted to DST, now rechristened “War Time,” from 1942 to 1945. After that, it was back to local picking-and-choosing. By 1966, 100 million Americans were living under DST because of local laws. Congress said F that and passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, with the “saving” to begin on the last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday of October. States that weren’t having any could opt out. Guess who didn’t? Today we get even more daylight-saving: Since 2007, DST has begun on the second Sunday of March and ended on the last Sunday of October. Yippee.

Over the years, there have been some important arguments made in favor of Daylight Saving Time. All of them have been debunked. You’ve probably heard that the change saves energy costs. It doesn’t. Researchers have found Daylight Saving Time increases energy use and costs billions of dollars each year in, among other things, employee accidents and goofing off.

You may have heard that DST decreases traffic accidents. It doesn’t. Evening accidents decrease, but early-morning accidents increase — and early-evening pedestrian fatalities soar immediately following the switch. One University of Michigan study found 65 pedestrian deaths in the area studied in the week before DST ended — and 227 killed in the week after the end of DST. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon found a 186 percent increase in the risk of being killed by a car in the early evening for every mile walked right after DST ends. We’re not meant to shift our time frames so dramatically. It throws us all off our game.

So, who likes Daylight Saving? People who make money off it, duh. That includes golf courses and other sports and tourism interests, along with retailers, who are pleased that people have an extra hour of daylight to squander dropping bucks in their establishments. Who doesn’t like DST? People like me who don’t get enough sleep. Also, farmers. And other intelligent folks everywhere.

The thing is, America, DST merely grants you the illusion that you can manipulate the fourth dimension. You can’t. You’re not Doc Brown. Even Doc Brown isn’t Doc Brown. Did you notice how old he looked in his Back to the Future Day YouTube video? Human beings have arranged their lives around the rising and setting of the sun for millions of years. It’s typical modern hubris to think we can improve on that. DST increases your chances of having a heart attack, increases air pollution, decreases economic production, causes skin cancer, and has been linked to increased rates of depression and suicide. It’s damned inconvenient, and nonsensical, too. Why disrupt our lives this way every spring and then disrupt them all over again come fall? The only possible plus of DST is that it served as a reminder to put new batteries in your smoke detectors, but now that those come with 10-year batteries, even that’s moot. The only people still arguing in favor of Daylight Saving Time are dissolute drunks who live for that one extra hour at the bar every autumn, plus fans of Volksgemeinschaft, entomologists and golfers. And who wants to be on their side?

Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.