About time

The European Union Commission has recommended abandoning the practice of adjusting clocks by one hour every spring and fall, in response to polls suggesting that most people dislike it. Given the complicated nature by which the EU makes decisions, there is a long way to go before this could take place, if at all. But it is a step.

In a consultation paper it said one option would be to let each member state decide whether to go for permanent summer or winter time. That would be “a sovereign decision of each member state”, Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein explained on Friday.

He stressed that the proposal was “to no longer constrain member states into changing clocks twice per year”.

The EU made the spring/autumn clock change the rule in all member states in 1996, based on the argument that it would reduce energy costs. But the Commission says the data on energy-saving is inconclusive.

There is also no reliable evidence that the clock changes reduce traffic accidents, the Commission says.

There are three standard time zones:

  • Three states apply GMT (the UK, Ireland and Portugal)
  • 17 have Central European Time, which is GMT+1
  • Eight have Eastern European Time, which is GMT+2

The current seasonal clock changes are controversial partly because there is a big difference in daylight hours experienced by Scandinavia and by southern Europe.

Nordic countries have long, dark nights in winter and short nights in summer. The pattern in the south is more even across the seasons.

There are anomalies too. For example, neighbours Portugal and Spain are in different time zones, as are Sweden and Finland.

There will be a lot of opposition in the US to abandoning it because the recreation industry, especially golf, benefits from the long summer evenings. And we know that many if not most of the movers and shakers in politics and business are golfers.


  1. tenine says

    Fall back has been experienced by me as extremely disruptive and seemed to take weeks to adjust. It hasn’t bothered me so much in recent years I admit.

  2. Trickster Goddess says

    I agree with anat; I count down the days to the spring time change. It’s the anticipation of more evening light that helps me survive the winter blahs. The one good thing George W. Bush accomplished in his term in office was to expand the period of daylight time by about month and a half. The only way I’ll accept stopping the biannual clock change is if we stay on Summer Time all year round. Going the other way would be detrimental to my mental health.

  3. says

    “There is also no reliable evidence that the clock changes reduce traffic accidents, the Commission says.”

    Wherever did they get that notion? All the studies (*) I found on a quick search say the contrary -- DST changes cause more accidents.


    (* NIH, BMJ, insurance organizations, etc. They’re not exactly fringe groups with agendas.)

  4. coragyps says

    Forty years ago or so, the State of Kentucky went to county option on the Daylight Savings question. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except that Kentucky is in two time zones already, so the state ended up with three different times under four names -- EST, EDT, CST, and CDT, until they repealed that silliness. It made for interesting lunchtimes travelling through there…….

  5. John Morales says

    Intransitive @4, the claim that “There is also no reliable evidence that the clock changes reduce traffic accidents” is perfectly congruent with the claim that “DST changes cause more accidents”, indirect and mealy-mouthed as it may be.

    (Simple logic; if A causes more B, then A does not reduce B)

  6. Curt Sampson says

    I’m trying to figure out what the problem is, if you want more or fewer hours of daylight before or after work, with simply changing the work hours rather than the clock.

    Really, the whole world should run on UTC, with no time zones at all, and let folks pick whatever hours they like for “standard work hours” (such as they exist) for any particular area. Here in Japan, my ward office would be open 23:00-08:00, which is just fine by me.

    Yes, dates, when used alone, might seem a bit weird at first because you’d have to be a bit more clear that you’re setting dates based on a specific cut-over time: anything filed between 2018-08-26 23:00 and 2018-08-27 08:00 would be ‘dated’ 2018-08-27. But in fact we already do that: if you do an on-line filing of a court document or make a bank transfer at 2018-08-26 17:30 local time for you, it will be dated 2018-08-27. No big deal.

    This would also make abolition of leap seconds a bit easier, since we wouldn’t no longer be worrying that in a couple of centuries the sun wouldn’t be directly above us any more at ’12:00′ local time.

  7. tbrandt says

    Just to clarify the first few responses: the proposed change is to keep summer time all year round, not winter/standard time all year round. We were once on solar time (solar noon = 12:00 pm) before the railroads helped standardize things. That will now become 1:00pm--it’s a one hour shift from the age-old definition of time (am and pm come from the Latin for before and after solar noon). I’m happy with this change. I care much less about it being dark when I wake up than I do about it being dark when I leave work. Of course this could have been solved long ago by making the work day 8-4 rather than 9-5, but oh well.

  8. John Morales says

    Intransitive, you’re writing to someone who spent over a decade working on rotating shifts (night starting at 10:15, morning starting at 6:15, day starting at 2.15), so a one hour difference is nothing to me. To what putative problems do you refer?

    (The weather mattered a shitload more to me, since I’ve always been a bike rider)

    Point being, if A demonstrably worsens B, it makes perfect sense that there is no evidence that A improves B, contrary to your ostensible bewilderment as to the validity of that notion.

    A one hour time zone difference during travel can cause jet lag. How is changing the clock twice per year any different?

    Bah. Toughen up.

  9. EigenSprocketUK says

    Getting rid of messing around with daylight saving is an excellent. And like all excellent ideas from the EU it will go down badly in the UK. Daylight Saving never saved a scintilla of daylight, it just forced us to get up earlier in summer. Forcing that on people in Northern Europe was mostly pointless. And everywhere else it raised numbers of early-morning drivers short on sleep and possibly still pished from the night before. (Did anyone normal ever go to bed early the night before?)
    Curt Sampson’s and tbrandt’s points (#7&8) correctly highlight the idiocy of expecting local solar noon, as shown by your latest-tech sundial, stubbornly to correspond to a particular clock reading regardless of your local longitude.

  10. anat says

    Curt Sampson, how many people have the privilege of setting the hours that they work? To an extent I am in such a position (though some days I have meetings or otherwise need to coordinate with other people). But many people still need to show up at a specific time and stay until a specific time on a regular basis.

  11. lanir says

    I frankly don’t care how daylight savings ends as long as it ends. Spring? Fall? Split down the middle? The details are unimportant. The mere idea that I should have to adjust my life so someone else can go golfing is beyond insulting. So far all other justifications have failed to resemble factual data.

    I care about their ridiculous reasoning for this just as much as they care about the disruption they’re causing me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *