Misconceptions About Daylight Saving Time
Daylight saving time, also called summer time, is the practice of advancing clocks to extend daylight hours during waking time in the summer months. There are a number of misconceptions about the practice, beginning with the name itself. While it’s often referred to as “daylight savings time,” the grammatically correct term is “daylight saving time,” as this maintains subject-verb agreement.
Another popular misconception is that the practice was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin. He did write of a similar concept in a satirical essay published in 1784. However, Franklin mentioned the time change as a joke about the perceived laziness of the French. In the essay, he wrote that the amount of sunlight wasted in the morning would come as a shock to those who “have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon.”
The first serious case for daylight saving time was made by George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist who wanted more daylight for hunting bugs. Hudson actually suggested a two-hour shift, arguing that springing the clocks forward would allow more daylight for evening activities during the summer months. But when the idea was proposed to a New Zealand scientific society in 1895, it was rejected as it was seen as pointless and overly complicated.
Implementation of Daylight Saving Time
Several decades after Hudson made his case for changing the clocks, Germany became the first country to officially implement the practice. In 1916, Germany adopted summer daylight saving time amid World War I in an effort to conserve fuel by reducing the need for artificial light. Several countries, including Australia, Great Britain, and the United States soon followed suit as an energy-saving measure.
After the conclusion of the war, many countries – including much of the US – discontinued the seasonal time change. But since daylight saving time was a local option, several states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and cities, like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, continued the practice.
The beginning and end of daylight saving time weren’t standardized in the US until the passage of the Uniform Time Act in 1966. This established that DST was to begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. However, any state that wished to be exempt from daylight saving time could do so by passing a state law. The US has since shifted the start date to the second Sunday in March and the end date to the first Sunday in November.
Controversies and Concerns
Today, about 70 countries worldwide observe daylight saving time either nationwide or regionally. Many African and Asian countries – including the world’s two most-populous countries, China and India – skip the clock change altogether. Several US states and territories, including Hawaii, Arizona, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands are also on permanent standard time.
Despite its relatively widespread practice, the back-and-forth changing of the clocks is largely unpopular. In fact, a recent poll found that 61% of Americans are in favor of ending the twice-a-year time change. And there is scientific evidence to suggest that daylight saving time can even present a health hazard. Studies have linked the loss of sleep when springing the clocks forward to an uptick in heart attacks, strokes, workplace injuries, and traffic fatalities.
The time change issue was recently addressed by the US Congress. In March 2022, the Senate unanimously passed a bill to make daylight saving time permanent. However, the bill stalled in the House of Representatives, as a consensus was unable to be reached due to differing opinions by region. The bill was reintroduced to the Senate in 2023, so the measure will once again be before Congress this year.
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