Is Daylight Saving An Outdated Practice?

Daylight saving, or the practice of adjusting the time to maximize waking activities during daylight hours, can be traced all the way back to ancient civilizations. The ancient Romans had different time scales for use during different times of the year. Benjamin Franklin is often credited with the invention of daylight saving time, but the concept predates him, and actual execution never happened during his lifetime.

Many different individuals contributed to what we know as daylight saving time now, both in the United States and Europe. Germany was the first county to put the idea into practice in 1916. The implementation was haphazard and sporadic and left many people confused over the ensuing years. Many countries abandoned the practice altogether. Various states in America decided for or against implementation leaving little consistency across the country and befuddling travelers. The U.S. Congress established the Uniform Time Act of 1966 in an effort to standardize time zones. Hawaii, Arizona, and parts of Indiana were the only locales that exempted themselves by passing local ordinances. The effective dates have been revised a few times over the years since, most recently in 2005. Only 70 of the 196 countries in the world practice daylight saving.

DLS world map

While daylight saving time has long been touted as a means to save energy, some emerging research counters that point and raises some others about the impacts it has on the health and safety of Americans. Disturbing sleep rhythms by as little as an hour can have some profound effects on individuals’ ability to fall asleep, leaving them more tired and less well equipped to respond quickly to situations, especially behind the wheel of a car.

Additionally, it has many people commuting to and from work in the dark, when they were previously accustomed to driving during daylight hours. Diminished night vision is a natural part of aging, but it makes driving in the dark a hazardous activity, and many sufferers will avoid it if possible. Commuting to work is clearly an essential task, even for people who are not comfortable doing so. Daylight saving time puts school children out at bus stops and walking to school in the dark, and in northern states, colder temperatures. Many companies have found that consumers will go home and stay put after work if it is dark outside. By shifting daylight hours from the morning to the evening, people are more likely to go shopping or play sports such as golf. Since most people don’t walk to these activities, more gasoline is burned.

A majority of surveyed Americans found daylight saving time to be more of a hassle than a valuable tool. Now that we know better — that daylight saving might have more downsides than benefits — shouldn’t we be doing better and scrapping this outdated practice?