Every year, people move their clocks forward in time in accordance with beginning DST, or daylight saving time. The concept has existed through history in some way or another as managing day-time activities through conserving daylight. Benjamin Franklin, in a 1784 letter, had proposed that Parisians ration candle use as a way of rising earlier to use morning sunlight. However, the first implementation of DST was done by Germany and Austria-Hungary during World War I as a way to conserve coal use. Other nations followed suit in the years after. The system has been dropped and brought back due to wars and energy crises, due in part to consistent belief that it helps conserve energy and aid in productivity and public safety. However, is such a thing true?

Regarding energy conservation, studies by the Department of Transportation and the National Bureau of Standards have found that there were, at best, about a 1% decrease in electricity usage during DST. In fact, while households might use less lighting due to changes in hours, they more than often use increased amounts of air-conditioning, which balances out any energy benefit that might be garnered. On gasoline use, Congress in 2005 had extended DST by four weeks in the hopes of decreasing oil use. A 2008 study by the Department of Energy had found that such a goal didn’t appear to be realized.

Despite the conventional belief that DST helps cut traffic problems and accidents, studies seem to be mixed or negative to such a claim. Stanley Coren’s 1996 report in the New England Journal of Medicine found a pattern where traffic accident rates tend to heighten in the spring after clocks are moved, and then level off in the fall after they are changed back. A 2009 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that workplace injuries increase after clock changes of DST. The Department of Transportation found, at most, a 0.7% reduction in traffic fatalities during DST, but a subsequent National Bureau of Standards study found no difference at all.

As for personal health, a recent study by the University of Alabama found that the sudden change in time caused the following Monday and Tuesday after DST begins to have an over 10% increase in the amount of heart attacks. A 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine had found a similar circumstance. Finnish researchers found in another recent study that the overall rate of strokes increased by 8% in the two days after moving the clock forward. The rate increased by 25% for cancer patients and 20% for people over the age of 65.

Economic impact is mostly mixed. Retailers, sports organizations, and some other businesses indeed tend to support DST for their livelihood, but other sections are not so lucky. Movie industries and television networks tend to suffer in ratings and sales as a result of the change. Farmers are also adversely affected by DST, as grain production and livestock can be impacted by time changes. Businesses that are more tied to the sun, as well as parents of small children, are other groups affected. Utah State University William F Shughart estimated the lost opportunity cost of DST to be about $1.7 billion. Other studies have brought up the possibility that DST might have a negative impact on stock exchanges, but the methodologies of such are still disputed.

Much comes down to how one looks at it, but evidence seems to lead me to believe that DST must go. Unlike when the system was first implemented, our society has had the chance to look at the evidence of claims that have been often assumed to be true. However, it is quite different from what the claims are. Economic benefits are mixed at best, and even then beneficial to some sectors of the economy at the behest of others. Health impacts of the system can in fact be quite deadly. Energy conservation is hardly implemented by doing so. Not to mention that the entire concept seems largely anachronistic. While such a system might have worked back when daylight was instrumental to the running of everyday activities, with advances in technology and productivity, such an aim is largely irrelevant. With electricity and energy production on a grand scale, we have conquered the night in a way our ancestors never could have dreamed of. For the sake of our health, economic livelihood, and safety, I have no issue with DST going the way of the dinosaur.

Extra Links:
There’s no proof daylight saving time saves electricity, so why do we even bother?

Here is a look at the legal regulations concerning DST. States have the power to opt out of DST on their own, as Arizona and Hawaii have done. There is debate in some other states regarding the issue. http://timezonereport.com/?page_id=313