It’s that time of the year again when we move the clocks forward by an hour and therefore can take advantage of more daylight during the second half of the day. Although we call this new time daylight saving time, we haven’t added anymore daylight to our lives; we’ve only shifted when it occurs. A better term would be to call this daylight shifting time, but I doubt that will catch on.

spring fowards

This idea of moving the clocks back and forth each year has been around for centuries. While Ben Franklin often gets the credit for coming up with the idea, he might not have been entirely serious when he did. According to Tufts University Professor Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, Franklin often espoused the merits of conservation. Money would be saved, Franklin argued, if people rose with the sun and turned in earlier at night, replacing hours of expensive candle use with free morning daylight.

While French ambassador Franklin penned a letter to the Journal of Paris in which he sarcastically stated, upon awakening at 6 a.m., to find that the sun was already up. In this letter according to The Ingenious Dr. Franklin. Selected Scientific Letters. edited by Nathan G. Goodman, Franklin, basically is making fun of French laziness and the fact they wouldn’t be up early enough to know it was already light at 6 a.m.“I saw it (the sun) with my own eyes. And, having repeated this observation the three following mornings, I found always precisely the same result.”

Daylight Saving Time has been used in the U.S. and in many European countries since World War I. At that time, in an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power. Other parts of the world also use Daylight Saving time although some do call it Daylight Savings Time with the s and others call it Summer Time.

After World War I Congress, overriding President Wilson’s veto repealed Daylight Saving Time. It was reinstated during World War II. After that some states used it and others didn’t. It was quite confusing. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 was signed into law on April 12, 1966, by President Lyndon Johnson. States could still opt-out by passing a law to do so.

During the oil crisis of the early 1970s we remained on Daylight Saving Time year round and as recently as 2007 another law was passed extending DST to where we are today. Presently we switch the clocks forward the second Sunday in March and move them back the first Sunday in November.

The whole thing is rather silly with the switch causing a documented increase in accidents. According to a 2004 study in Accident Analysis and Prevention, remaining on DST year round would save the lives of more than 170 pedestrians annually.

If your argument for not doing this is the dark mornings in winter, think again. Paris, France has a sunrise after 8:30 for most of December and January and they manage. Our latest sunrise in Boston would be 8:14 the first part of January, but the sun would never set before 4:30 again. If we left the clocks on standard time the morning situation would improve and you’d still have the sun setting after 7 p.m most of the spring and summer.


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