Herald Journal Herald and Journal, April 1, 2002

It's time to save some daylight

By Lynda Jensen

Few people give daylight savings time a second thought, but it actually was born of the first world war and claims a colorful past.

Surprisingly, the original idea behind daylight savings time was (and still is) to save energy ­ which it does, to the tune of 300,000 barrels of oil each year, specifically during the winter months.

In fact, whenever the nation was in crises ­ such as during World War II or the OPEC oil embargo of October 1973 (when the nation faced a energy crises) ­ daylight savings time was enacted longer, or year-round, to save energy, according to information from the web site webexhibits.org/daylightsaving.

But what a pain

A frequent complaint is the inconvenience of changing many clocks, and adjusting to a new sleep schedule. For most people, this is a nuisance, but some with sleep disorders find it very hard.

Farmers often dislike the clocks changing mid-year.

Canadian poultry producer Marty Notenbomer notes, "The chickens do not adapt to the changed clock until several weeks have gone by, so the first week of April and the last week of October are very frustrating for us."

A writer in 1947 wrote, "I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind.

I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen.

As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves." (Robertson Davies, The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, 1947, XIX, Sunday.)

Saving energy

Energy use is directly connected to when people go to bed and when they get up.

Bedtime for most of us is late evening through the year. When people go to bed, they turn off the lights and TV.

In the average home, 25 percent of all the electricity people use is for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs, VCRs and stereos.

Research showed the following interesting tidbits:

· daylight savings time saves energy, which was estimated at 10,000 barrels of oil a day to the tune of 600,000 each year for 1974 and 1975.

· daylight saving time saves lives and prevents traffic injuries. This is because people are able to travel home from work and school in daylight, which is safer than darkness..

· Daylight saving time actually prevents crime, because people get home from work and school and complete more errands and chores in daylight, which seems to reduce people's exposure to various crimes, which are more common in darkness.

The Department of Transportation estimated that 50 lives were saved and about 2,000 injuries were prevented in March and April of the study years (in 1974 and 1975).

The department also estimated that $28 million was saved in traffic accident costs.

Who thought of it?

Believe it or not, Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea of daylight savings time while serving as an American delegate in Paris in 1784, recorded in his essay, "An Economical Project."

Britain toyed with the idea first, only to meet ridicule and opposition, especially from farming interests. Germany took the lead and made the first official attempt.

In May of 1916, Britain followed the lead of Germany, and gave it a whirl, with mixed results.

The Brits were also first to implement standard time, which was pressed by the railroads since it was crucial for them to know what time trains used the same track, which was often in those days.

Train wrecks many times could be traced to a direct result of having inconsistent timekeeping.

Daylight saving has been used in the United States and in many European countries since World War I, when the system was adopted in order to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power.

In 1918, in order to conserve resources for the war effort, Congress placed the country on daylight saving time for the remainder of World War I. It was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919.

The law, however, proved so unpopular (mostly because people rose earlier and went to bed earlier than people do today) that the law was later repealed in 1919 over President Wilson's veto.

During World War II, the US observed year-round daylight saving time (from Feb. 2, 1942 to Sept. 30, 1945).

From 1945 to 1966, there was no federal law about daylight saving time.

In the early 1960s, observance of daylight saving time was inconsistent, with a hodgepodge of time observances, and no agreement when to change clocks.

This changed in 1961, when studies made by the committee for time uniformity studied the issue and found that along a 35-mile stretch of highway (Route 2) between Moundsville, West Virginia, and Steubenville, Ohio, every traveller had to endure seven time changes.

This, plus positive enforcement by newspapers, spurred the uniform time act of 1966.

Under legislation enacted in 1986, daylight savings began at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and ends at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October

Daylight saving time was changed slightly in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan changed daylight saving time from the last Sunday in April to the first.


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