By starting the day a little later, we take advantage of natural sunlight and therefore cut energy consumption. Daylight saving time began almost one hundred years ago, but was actually suggested by none other than Ben Franklin, who satirically remarked that the consumption of candles could be reduced by waking earlier to use morning sunlight.
The great part about Daylight Saving Time is that the evenings are longer – extra time to bike ride with the family or weed your garden. Modern daylight saving time was first proposed by George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand shift worker who wanted more after-hours daylight to collect insects.
People who suffer with the winter blues (often called Seasonal Affective Disorder) can put away their blue lights. But that first few weeks create some health and safety concerns that may not get the attention they deserve.
- Is DST bad for us? The first few days, and for some people weeks, into and out of DST disturbs people’s sleeping patterns and make them more restless at night. A 2011 study shows that there’s an increase in heart attacks during the first week of DST and a decrease in heart attacks during the first week after DST ends in the fall. A 2009 study showed that workers were injured on the job more often and more severely on the Monday after switching to DST than any other typical Monday.
- Perhaps DST is good for us – In 1975, the US Department of Transportation estimated a 1.5 to 2% reduction in traffic fatalities during DST and in 1995, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated a reduction of 1.2%, including a 5% reduction in fatalities of pedestrians.
- In the 1970s, the US Law Enforcement Assistance Administration found a 10-13% reduction in violent crimes during DST.
Daylight Savings Time does, of course, save energy. In 2008, the Department of Energy found that United States electricity consumption decreased by 0.5% per day during daylight saving time, which is enough energy to power about 122,000 average US homes for a year.