Geek Out

Why Daylight Savings Time Is Pointless

Ugh. You’re up an hour early, your body hates you for it, and even a litre of coffee can’t get your day on track. Daylight savings sucks. But you know the worst part? It doesn’t have to be like this.

Daylight savings isn’t as old as you think it is. First suggested by Benjamin Franklyn in 1784, it was at the time shot down by many very sensible people as being pointless. Then, in the First World War, it was introduced — first by the Germans — to save coal during war time.

Somehow in that age of austerity, the concept soon caught on and everyone started doing it. Especially in Australia so more daylight hours could be available for doing outdoors type stuff. Well, not in Queensland, and it hasn’t fallen off the face of the planet as a result.

Supporters say daylight savings saves energy, promotes a healthy lifestyle and reduces traffic accidents. So let’s bust the myths right now and make it clear that daylight savings needs to go.

Daylight Savings doesn’t save energy…

The Germans introduced daylight savings to lower fuel costs. The idea is that, while changing the clocks reduces the use of artificial lighting in the evening but increases use in the morning, the evening reduction outweighs the morning increase.

Great — but that was a century ago. Recent studies point out that, at best, DST might reduce the US electricity usage by 1 per cent during March and April. Other estimates, by the National Bureau of Standards, suggest it has zero effect.

…cut accidents…

Many folks point to the fact that DST reduces the incidence of road traffic accidents as a good reason to keep using the system. In fact, the US data surrounding road safety disagree widely. Some studies show that it makes no difference, others suggest a 0.7 per cent reduction in traffic fatalities during DST. When the data’s that limited, it’s not enough to base a decision on.

…or make us any healthier…

It’s true that DST does provide extra daylight in the evening, and that it may bring with it increased physical activity and reduced incidence of depression. But there is plenty of evidence that changing the clocks by an hour can have a detrimental effect on our health.

Clock shifts disrupt our circadian rhythms. Studies have show that, around the times of the spring clock changes, there are spikes in suicide rates and an increase in the number of recorded heart attacks. In fact, when Kazakhstan ditched DST in 2005, it cited health reasons. Sure, it might make you go for an extra jog or two every year, but it might also help contribute to a heart attack. I know which I’d prefer.

…but is incredibly disruptive.

So, none of the arguments for maintaining DST weigh up. I have one, very large, argument to support scrapping it, though: it loses the US billions of dollars every year. It damages retail, affects the stock market in a negative way, and even disrupts agriculture.

A century ago, we didn’t have data to tell us whether DST made a real measurable impact; it was acceptable to run with it because, for all we knew, it was useful. Now, we know better. Day light savings sucks — and we need to get rid of it.

Image: eflon


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