“Are you ready to spring forward? If not you better get the pogo stick out of the closet to help you make the spring. This Sunday, March 10th, we’re springing forward in time one hour in our annual ritual of turning the clocks forward. In fact you should probaby set your clocks forward before you hit the sack on Saturday evening.
I can hear the grumbling already. I know, along with the hour of daylight we gain this Sunday, the quarter of us in the world’s population who observe daylight saving time will also be losing an hour of sleep. One hour might seem like a small change, but there will be many us who will be a little groggy come tomorrow, to say nothing of Monday morning.
What Is the Point of Daylight Savings Time? Even though there’s no ancient legend regarding the founding of daylight saving time, it has an interesting history just the same. The implementation of Daylight Saving Time has been fraught with controversy since Benjamin Franklin conceived of the idea in a humorous essay in 1794. Now you have to remember, this was the guy who published in “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” such proverbial words of wisdom as; “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Ol’ Ben had a great sense of humor, I mean anyone given to taking “air baths” with his chamber maids probably has a good sense of humor. Anyway, at the age of 78, in a moment of whimsey, Benjamin Franklin wrote, as a joke, the essay “An Economical Project,” a discourse on the thrift of natural versus artificial lighting.
Folks read Franklin’s essay and everybody had a good laugh and promptly forgot about this idea for 122 years. In 1916, during World War One, those great practical jokers the Germans and Austrians took time by the forelock, and began saving daylight at 11:00 p.m. on April 30, 1916, by advancing the hands of the clock one hour until the following October. They did this to conserve fuel needed to generate electrical power. The rest of the nations locked in the struggle of World War One immediately adopted Daylight Savings in 1916, too. No one wants to be left out of a good joke, right?
Of course, Daylight Savings was not formally adopted in America until 1918, when we entered World War One. An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States’ was enacted on March 19, 1918. The Act established standard time zones across the country (something we didn’t have until then) and set Daylight Saving Time to begin on March 31, 1918. Daylight Saving Time was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919. After the War ended, the law proved so unpopular, mainly because people got up earlier and went to bed earlier than people do today, that Congress repealed it in 1919. At that point, Daylight Saving Time became a local option, and was continued by a few states, like Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and even in some cities, such as New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago.
During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round Daylight Saving Time, called “War Time,” from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945. After the end of World War II, between 1945 to 1966 there was no federal law regarding Daylight Saving Time. States and cities were free to choose if they wanted to observe Daylight Saving Time. They could also decide when Daylight Saving Time began and ended. All this free choice understandably caused a lot of confusion. Radio and TV stations and the transportation companies had to publish new schedules every time a state or town began or ended Daylight Saving Time. It’s not surprising that many people intensely dislike Daylight Saving Time, its adoption has been pretty haphazard in the United States.
By 1966, over half of Americans were observing Daylight Saving Time based on their states’ choice. Congress decided to step in and end the confusion, and they came up with the Uniform Time Act of 1966. President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law on April 12, 1966. It established that Daylight Saving Time would begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. However, in Congress’ typical manner of business, the Act contained a provision so any Stated that wanted to be exempt from Daylight Saving Time could do so by passing a state law.
Congress, however, rarely does things just once. In 1972, Congress revised the law to provide that, if a state was in two or more time zones, the state could exempt the part of the state that was in one time zone while providing that the part of the state in a different time zone would observe Daylight Saving Time. I know, it’s enough to make your head spin.
Congress amended the law again in 1986 so that Daylight Saving Time would begin on the first Sunday in April at 2:00 a.m. and ended at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday of October.
Congresses’ Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. starting in 2007, to begin at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November. However, our elected representatives retained the right to revert to their 1986 law should the change of starting Daylight Saving Time earlier proved unpopular or if energy savings are not significant.
So I guess it’s time for the punch line to the joke. The real reasons for Daylight Saving Time is to make good use of daylight and save energy. In the summer, our clocks are moved forward to extend an hour of daylight to the evening. The idea is that if the sun is out “longer” than normal, people will use natural light and turn on their home lights later. Therefore, less electricity will be used. In 1975, a study was done by the US Department of Transportation estimated Daylight Saving Time would decrease the country’s electricity consumption by 1% from March to April. One year later, a study of residential electricity consumption found that the usage of electricity was actually increased by a percent during Daylight Saving Time because many people used air conditioning and other home appliances while they were home and those who woke up early in the morning consumed more energy because there was less sunlight and the people turned on their electric lights. Therefore, it counteracted the original purpose of Daylight Saving Time which was for saving energy.
This time change thing can get confusing, springing forward, falling back, what time it is supposed to be. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it can be. In September 1999, in the Middle East, the West Bank was on Daylight Saving Time while Israel had just switched back to Standard Time. A group of West Bank terrorists had prepared time bombs and smuggled them to their Israeli counterparts, who misunderstood the time on clocks on the bombs. As the bombs were being planted, they exploded, one hour too early, killing three terrorists instead of the intended victims, two busloads of tourists.
Lastly, the official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.
Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle), if you still remember your fifth grade grammar lessons. It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Saving is used in the same way as saving a ball game, rather than as a savings account.
Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with the ‘S’) flows more mellifluously off the tongue. Daylight Savings Time is our in common usage, and can be found today in dictionaries.
Adding to the confusion, for those of you who really like to split hairs, is that the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, and Daylight Time Shifting more accurate, but both phrases are awkward mouthfuls. We Americans definitely prefer the more fluid turn of a phrase.
Now don’t forget to Spring forward!”
Dr. Eric P. Dahlstrom, D.C., L.Ac.
Santa Monica Healing Arts
Providing Chiropractic Care and Acupuncture in Santa Monica since 1999 (http://santamonicahealingarts.com). Check out our 5-star Review on Yelp (http://www.yelp.com/biz/santa-monica-healing-arts-santa-monica) or find us on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Santa-Monica-Healing-Arts)