Should we end Daylight Savings Time (DST)?


I grew up in Sri Lanka where there was none of this business of changing clocks twice a year because being close to the equator, the days were pretty much the same length the whole year round. It is only countries that are far from the equator that do this and even then not all do so. So it took me a while to get used to this practice.

I find it a bit of a nuisance but don’t get too worked up about it but increasingly I have been hearing that it produces little benefits and actually has negative effects on health and productivity. Those complaints tend to be voiced on days like today, when most of the US shifts clocks to DST.

This short video explains the history of DST and makes a compelling case for why we should ditch the whole thing.

Comments

  1. ulrikedunlap says

    If I had my way, I’d keep DST all year long, since I prefer the extra daylight hour in the evening!

  2. Ben Finney says

    I’m currently reading the David Prerau book Saving The Daylight: Why We Put The Clocks Forward. It’s a great history of the phenomenon and the arguments that have surrounded it.

    While I can see arguments in favour of it, the disruption it causes is ludicrous. Especially bad is that in many jurisdictions, the exact dates are open to change every single year, with no guaranteed lead time. So if your computer today knows how next year’s worldwide timezones will be, in six months time that is almost certain to be wrong.

    One thing seems blatantly obvious to me though: Daylight is not being saved, so the name is an insult to intelligence. It should be renamed Daylight Shifting Time, and then maybe people could talk more honestly about the benefits and detriments.

  3. Trickster Goddess says

    I’m with ulrikedunlap, DST all year long! Being a night person, any sunshine before noon is useless to me. Extending DST to about 8 months of the year is the one accomplishment of George W. Bush that I am thankful for.

    There is one place in North America that does have DST all year round, and that is Saskatchewan. While Sask. is officially on Central Standard Time all year, geographically it is within the meridians that define the idealized Mountain Time zone, so it is really on MDT all year round.

    I would consider moving there if only they had mountains and an ocean and mild winters.

  4. says

    It’s definitely time to drop DST. It causes more problems than it solves – if it solves any at all.

    I was always told part of DST was the fact of rural life. When DST began, most people still lived on farms, and the extra hour helped with food production in the summer. Make hay (and potatoes) while the sun shines. Another thing not mentioned is that DST is beneficial mostly to the northern hemisphere, not the south. If one were in Africa or South America, it would make more sense for June to be standard time and December be DST. The world’s clocks could be shifting by two hours per year.

    I’ve lived in South Korea and Taiwan for the past fourteen years and haven’t missed DST at all. It’s one less annoyance to deal with. The only time I notice it is mentioned in the video, trying to do business by phone. In December, Taiwan and North American EST are twelve hours apart, but now they’re eleven. If I need to make an international call, business are sometimes still closed. Do I really want to wait until 10:00PM or 11:00PM to make a call instead of 9:00PM?

    Regarding the effects, I’ve never heard of heart attacks and suicides being caused by it. But car accidents due to sleepiness have happened, and they do cost money and cause injuries.

  5. lanir says

    I hate when the clock shuffle goes around. It’s never been anything but a hassle to run around and change all the clocks. And then lose sleep (or have to check paycheck very carefully to make sure I wasn’t ripped off an hour in the fall if I work overnight). It’s justifications are gibberish. The logic that shifting sunset and sunrise – which still change anyway – cause a disruption in some very specific cases that can be resisted by disrupting time for everyone… To follow that you need to jump down the rabbit hole.

    One thing I’m not sure the video covered or probably didn’t cover enough is that these things aren’t static. Some distributions of linux (not all) try to think globally and update timezone data every time someone mucks about with their local daylight savings rules. I’ve had it update as often as three times a week updating once a day. That’s admittedly rare but it still happens an awful lot.

  6. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    “It is only countries that are far from the equator that do this and even then not all do so.”
    Because when you go far enough from the equator, DST becomes meaningless. In the summer the sun is up before you wake, and sets after you go to bed. For me DST is only a nuisance. Some businessfolks say that it is important to keep the same time difference with central Europe, or they would lose one good business hour every day – but why can’t they adjust their own working hours without annoying the rest of the country?
    BTW, I don’t think rural life has anything to do with it. They live by the sun anyway, no matter what the clock on the wall says.

  7. fentex says

    That videos argument leans heavily on the cost of air conditioning. That is very rare in New Zealand where I live and irrelevant.

    Also these days the ‘hassle’ for me is changing the one clock in my bedroom that isn’t net connected and doesn’t know to update itself.

    And as someone who sometimes is on world spanning conference calls (which may include people from the U.S, Venezuela, China, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand [incidentally the hardest work I’ve done since labouring as a student]) the fact that some of them may have their clocks a little different than normal is of no concern or difference at all to me. It’s a logistical nightmare either way.

    The claim that technology is advancing is as good an argument for the ease of dealing with DST as it is against it – the evening out of use of technology through out the day makes it an irrelevant topic.

    Organising the shared daily routine to allow more time to enjoy pleasant summer evenings is something I look forward to when winter weather depresses me. We’ll be going off daylight saving in a week and I’m not looking forward to it.

  8. sundoga says

    Happily, I live in West Australia, which has rejected DST three times now (and it finally seems to have stuck – nobody’s brought it up for a while). We keep hearing the stupid argument that because the eastern states have DST, we’re even more out of step with them during the summer, which makes business links even more difficult – which is very stupid indeed given that A) if you’re a national business and you don’t have communication links going 24/7 you’re some kind of moron, and B) Jakarta and Tokyo are more important to us than Sydney and Melbourne are, and they’re on our time zone.
    Also, OUR rural sector doesn’t want it. The strongest opposition to Daylight savings here is from our farmers.

  9. astrosmash says

    agree with what ulrikedunlap said at number one

    ….If we’re gonna fix it inplace, let’s fix it in place for longer hours in the evening…Most of the US is on a 9 to 5 schedule…Having effectively NO sunlight after 5pm for 3 months of the year wreaks hell my psyche… During that time one’s sunlight hours are spent entirely at work…

  10. Mano Singham says

    While I agree that not shifting times would be a good thing, a case can be made for making standard time, well, the standard. The reason is that while it does not matter for people who work 9-5 or for those whose working hours are so different that nothing will really work for them, this is not the case for school children. Not having children walk to school on cold, dark winter mornings is the best argument I have for sticking with standard time all year round.

  11. says

    Definitely.

    We receive approximately the same amount of daylight between dawn and midday, as between midday and dusk. Obviously this is never exact, due to the Earth moving around the Sun all the while it’s turning on its own axis, but it’s only ever a few minutes’ difference.

    The standardised working day of 09:00 – 17:00 was chosen so that a man (and in those days, it would have been a man) would always have light in the morning to shave and dress for work, even in the depths of winter.

    If we want a bit more daylight after work, what’s wrong with having business hours run from 09:00 – 17:00 in Winter and 08:00 – 16:00, or even 07:00 – 15:00 in Summer? We still get up an hour earlier in Summer; we just don’t change the clocks and pretend it’s an hour later than what it really is.

    There would even be a few weeks when some businesses were still on Winter hours and others were on Summer hours, during which the roads would be less chaotic as the morning and evening rush hours were spread over two hours.

    The present situation is making a tacit statement that “business hours = 09:00 – 1700” is more important than “midday = 12:00”.

  12. Henry Gale says

    All this talk about ending DST when we should be working on abolishing time zones totally. UTC For All!

  13. Chiroptera says

    Actually, I don’t like that extra hour of daylight in the evening myself. I realize that I’m a bit different, but I like evenings and dusk and darkness; I tend to naturally use sunset to tell myself it’s now time to slow down and relax for the rest of the night. Simply ending my day at a specific clock time doesn’t work so well for me.

    I also enjoy walking in the evenings in the dark.

    But that’s just me, I realize.

  14. Dunc says

    The standardised working day of 09:00 – 17:00 was chosen so that a man (and in those days, it would have been a man) would always have light in the morning to shave and dress for work, even in the depths of winter.

    Not up here at 56 degrees North he wouldn’t.

  15. Chiroptera says

    Henry Gale, #12:

    I see no reason why UCT shouldn’t be the regular clock time. I can remember to get up every morning when my clock reads 11.30 UCT as well as I can remember when it reads 5:30 am local time.

  16. Mano Singham says

    I agree that having the whole world with the same time (UTC or anything else) makes sense. But of course every nation will fight to have the chosen time be such that the clock corresponds to their local sense of a regular day.

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  17. anat says

    I am among the DST year-long people – love spring forward, detest fall backward. I love having daylight for evening commute. My husband likes darkness in morning commute and being able to garden in the evening. OK, in the depth of winter 1 hour change wouldn’t do it, but much of November and February could be improved for us if they were on DST. But then we live in the western part of our time zone, and might have felt differently if we were farther to the east in the same time zone.

    As for school starting times – standard time allows elementary school kids to take the bus in daylight, but it is almost dark when they get home in winter. High school kids take the morning bus in the dark for most of winter even on standard time.

  18. David Wilford says

    Instead of UTC, I propose the following clock:

    http://xkcd.com/1335/

    Otherwise, I like having the additional hour of daylight in the evenings. Of course, I’m a morning person, which helps when it’s time to spring forward.

  19. A. Noyd says

    Mano Singham (#10)

    Not having children walk to school on cold, dark winter mornings is the best argument I have for sticking with standard time all year round.

    Except, doesn’t health research suggest we should let kids get up and go to school later than they already do anyway?

  20. says

    @dunc, #14:Mmm-hmm. The further you get from the equator, the greater the variation in daylight hours. Edinburgh’s shortest day is only 7 hours, according to a formula I found on the Internet; we get a whole 34 minutes more down here in Derby. London, which makes the rules, gets eight hours, all but ten minutes — and doesn’t care about anywhere else.

    Anyway, my take on it is still: Getting up earlier when more daylight is available = reasonable idea. Actually changing all the clocks and pretending it’s a different time than what it really is = insanity.

  21. Dunc says

    I agree that having the whole world with the same time (UTC or anything else) makes sense.

    Call me old-fashioned, but I expect noon to be when the sun is at the zenith. I think you should be able to make a decent estimate of the local time from solar or astronomical observations, without having to know your longitude.

    People who actually need to treat the world as one timezone already do. It’s called “Zulu time”.

    Edinburgh’s shortest day is only 7 hours, according to a formula I found on the Internet;

    It’s actually shorter in practice because of the local geography – we have hills to the south.

  22. Mano Singham says

    On further reflection, I can think of a reason to have different local times, other than the fact that we are used to certain clock readings corresponding to certain times of day. It enables those who need to talk to people in other parts of the world to have a at least a rough idea of when to call. For example, if I want to phone friends and relatives in Sri Lanka, I can look up the time difference and make sure that I call between 9:00am and 9:00pm their time so as not to wake them when they might be sleeping. If we all had one time, then I would have to look up when their daylight hours are and that might be more complicated than making a simple time adjustment.

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