While many would argue that politics and religion remain the most polarizing topics out there it feels like daylight saving time is right up there. While that extra hour of sleep in the autumn is heavenly, the 23 hour day each spring ruins our body clocks for weeks. Hopefully, these daylight saving time facts will help you forget that your dog currently has no idea when it is the right time to beg for his (or her) food.
Now that you have the gist of things, here are 15 interesting facts about daylight saving time (DST).
Facts about daylight saving time:
- DST was adopted because of war. Specifically, DST began to be used in the United States in 1918. This was as a way to conserve energy during what would become the final year of World War I and has nothing to do with saving light for farming which many people still believe. The United States followed both England and Germany in introducing this new measure of time.
- British Double Summer Time was once a thing. Expanding on the role of changing the time during the war, between 1941 and 1945 Britain moved its clocks forward two hours during the summer. The reasons were once again for energy-saving and also put the UK on the same time footing as mainland Europe as they were GMT +1 in the winter and GMT +2 in the summer.
- Tonga used a time change to steal the millennium. King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV pulled a fast one on neighboring Fiji in October 1999. Knowing that the eyes of the world, and plenty of tourists, would be looking to the region as the first to bring in the new millennium, the King suddenly changed the clocks forward by one hour. This meant that Tonga would beat its Pacific Island neighbors to the millennium by 60 minutes and reap the rewards that came with that distinction.
- Amtrak is the reason for the 2 a.m change. The decision to change the clocks at 2 a.m on a Sunday morning may feel random but there is a reason for it. While changing at midnight would seem much more logical, the original time of 2 a.m was chosen because it would cause the least disruption to Amtrak trains leaving New York City. Specifically, there were no trains scheduled to leave Grand Central Station at that time and the 2 a.m slot for clock changing has stuck ever since.
- Hawaii and Arizona don’t observe DST. Over in the USA, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 took the power to change the clocks out of the hands of the states and gave it t the Federal Government. While 48 of the 50 states do observe DST two do not. Hawaii abandoned the practice in 1967 as the sun rises and sets at basically the same time in the tropics year-round. Arizona took the same action the next year, both because of abundant year-round sunshine and to lower the temperature during bedtime hours.
- George W. Bush set the current United States DST policy. The Uniform Time Act set the dates of DST to be the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. This was changed in 1986, with the new dates being the first Sunday in April until the last Sunday in October. This policy stayed in place until President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law. This policy, which was again based on energy savings, set our current DST time period from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November.
- DST is probably dangerous. There have been numerous studies done on the impact of DST on human health and none have been particularly positive. The hour of sleep lost overnight seems to result in an increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, and a general decrease in immune system health. Studies have also shown an increase in car accidents in the days immediately following the time change as sluggish drivers cannot react as quickly to hazards as well-rested ones.
- Farmers actually hate DST. That myth that DST is for farmers is shattered even more when you realize farmers actually really dislike it. Crop farmers can’t start their day until the dew has disappeared, dew that doesn’t adhere to the hands of a clock. The change also means crops have to be rushed to market, animals have their own schedules thrown off, and (back in the day) workers would be an hour less productive each day as they clocked off at the same time regardless of when the daylight allowed them to start in the morning.
- DST was the idea of Benjamin Franklin (kind of). Benjamin Franklin penned a satirical essay in the 1780s that paved the way for future DST debate. Franklin noticed people sleeping when it was light and having to spend extra money on candles in the evenings. His essay was meant to be humorous, but the suggestion that using sunshine instead of expensive lamp oil for light would be taken further a whole century later.
- About 70 countries use DST. While it might seem like DST is ubiquitous, that is far from the truth. Most of North America and Europe adopt the practice for some part of the year, but countries on other continents do not. This is because the close you get to the equator daylight stays at similar levels all year meaning there is simply no need for a time change.
- DST seems to deter petty crime. One of the positives about DST is that it does seem to stop lower-level crime. The darker hours in the evening are when the majority of robberies, burglaries, and car thefts occur so it tracks that an increase in daylight further into the night would slow down these crimes. At least one study has found that the start of DST does correlate with fewer robberies.
- Retailers LOVE DST. What DST does for crime, it does the opposite for retail and leisure. More daylight means more hours shopping, sitting on patios, and golfing. All these industries benefit to the tune of hundreds of millions of extra dollars each year based purely on an hour of extra daylight.
- It is Saving not Savings. Pretty simple this. While people often say daylight savings time, the correct terminology is daylight saving time. The easy way to remember this is simply that we are saving daylight. It also isn’t capitalized, which is another common misconception.
- Daylight Saving Time might have killed the Drive-in. Sure, there are plenty of reasons that drive-in movie theaters are not as popular as they used to be (a huge one being the switch to digital film production). This is a shame because drive-ins are awesome. The switch to DST, however, did not help. The extra hour of sunlight meant an hour later start times, killing the family movie at the drive-in over the summer. When DST passed there were over 4,000 drive-ins in America, now there are just over 300.
- The energy savings might be a myth too. While it is true that the energy-saving benefits of DST were felt during the war it may no longer be true. Indiana (parts of it) had been a DST holdout and when the state fully embraced DST in 2006 energy use increased. This can be put down to the use of items like air conditioners, TVs, and computers that didn’t exist back in 1918.