We're heading into the weekend when, at long last, we'll regain the hour of sleep we lost earlier in the year when the United States switched over to daylight saving time. This couldn't happen soon enough, from our perspective: We've been feeling a little groggy since March, when we "sprung ahead" and lost that hour.
But we shouldn't be making these time shifts at all: Daylight saving time has long outlived its usefulness — if, in fact, it ever did serve any real purpose.
We've tilted against this particular windmill in previous editorials, but the point is worth making again: It's well past time for the United States to move to either daylight saving time or standard time and to stay there. An increasing amount of research suggests that daylight saving time does not save any energy and that switching back and forth between daylight and standard time could be a factor in a variety of health and safety issues, including an increase in traffic accidents after the spring switch as sleep-deprived drivers hit the road.
As for the energy savings: A study by Laura Grant of Claremont McKenna College and Matthew Kotchen of Yale University concluded that the switch to daylight savings time actually increased energy use. The study examined energy use in Indiana, where most counties did not observe daylight saving time until 2006. By comparing energy use before the switch to usage afterward, the researchers found that electrical demand in that state actually increased by 1 to 4 percent annually.
A somewhat related claim, that shifting the extra hour of daylight tends to reduce crime, has not yet been borne out by evidence.
As for the longstanding belief that daylight saving time was created to aid farmers, forget about that as well. Remember that daylight saving time, despite the title, does not actually create any more daylight — it just shifts an hour of it to the time when many of us are getting off from work. Farmers tend to work when it's light; they just adjust their schedules accordingly. (And, increasingly, the rolling equipment that farmers use is set up these days to run day and night.)
As for the livestock and crops on the farm, it's safe to say they don't care about any of this. In the words of a memorable "Last Week Tonight" report about daylight saving time: "Cows don't care what time it is because they're cows and cows are idiots."
Some people say they enjoy moving an hour of light to the evening, but we can achieve that by just sticking with daylight saving time year-round and doing away with the twice-annual ritual of switching.
And, if we're serious about saving time, think of the hours we'd all save if we didn't have to adjust the time on every single one of our clocks and other devices twice each year.
No wonder that at least 16 states this year have considered changes to daylight saving time, according to a recent article by Grant, the economist from Claremont McKenna College. But even there, the proposals are all across the board: Some states would end daylight saving time. Others are considering continuing it year-round and we tend to favor that proposal.
Regardless of your thoughts about daylight saving time, there is one thing you should do this weekend, and this reminder comes from the state fire marshal: Check your smoke alarms. Considering that some of these alarms come with 10-year batteries, you might not need to change them now — but you still should check them to make sure they're working. It's been convenient to tie this reminder to the weekends when we switch our clocks, but our hunch is that this great nation will be able to find other ways to remind you about this potentially lifesaving chore. (mm)