Sunday, March 8, 2009

Daylight Confusion Time

Why do we still change our clocks from Standard time to Daylight Savings time and back again, over and over, twice a year? Why not just keep one?

Daylight savings time was first adopted in parts of Europe during World War I in 1916 and eventually in the U.S. in 1918. That is also when time zones were established in the U.S. Changing the clocks twice a year was so unpopular here that the law was repealed after the War, making it a local option. A few states and even a few cities continued the practice, everyone else ignored it.

During part of World War II in the 1940s, Daylight Savings Time was adopted year-round, which is how I think it should be now. After that war, it became a local issue again, with a confusing array of options state-to-state and in some cases, county to county. Laws passed in 1966, 1974 and 1986 standardized the clock switching across most, but not all of the country and the start and end dates were changed again in 2005.

But it is still confusing!

Arizona, for example, does not switch to Daylight Savings Time. Neighboring Utah does. Navajo Nation, which is embedded in parts of both states, does. If you drive from Flagstaff, Arizona to Moab, Utah on highways 89, 160 and 191, don’t even bother trying to figure out what time it is; it changes three times in five hours. Or maybe four times. Five? I’m not sure.

At least one study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation claims that Americans prefer Daylight Savings Time because it gives us more daylight at the end of the day. If that’s the case, why not do that all year long?

There is no easy answer. Energy use and traffic safety are also part of the debate. Some people even say the additional afternoon light helps the economy because people go out and spend more money during the extra daylight. And recent research points to sleep disorder problems related to the clock changing.

Confused? Me too. Maybe it’s because of losing an hour of sleep last night. You did remember to change your clocks, right?

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