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Is Daylight Savings Time Really Necessary?

U.S. Prepares To Set Clocks Back As Daylights Saving Time Ends
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Twice a year the same debate is hashed out around water coolers and breakfast tables across America. Do we really need this twice-yearly clock changing? Is it really necessary or have we just been doing it for so long there is no real incentive to change? How did we get ourselves into this one-hour trade off anyway?

Shining the Light On Daylight Savings

“Spring forward; Fall Back” began in 1895 when it was proposed by George Vernon Hudson. But it wasn’t actually used until April of 1916 when Germany and Austria-Hungary began using it. Most of the United States used daylight savings time in the 1950’s and 60’s. During the 1970 energy crisis it spread to more areas. It has been widely used throughout North America and Europe since that time. Hawaii and most of Arizona do not recognize daylight savings time.

The Pro’s and Con’s of Daylight Savings Time

Daylight savings time has always had proponents and opponents of the practice. Adding daylight to the evening hours during summer benefits retail shopping, sporting events, and other events that attract people after working hours. Conversely it is not a favorite of evening entertainment such as fireworks displays that must start later, movies and nightclubs.

Proponents claim that it saves energy because lights are turned on later in the day than at other times of the year when there is less daylight. Opponents claim that the energy savings are negligible. They also make the case that changing times are economically and socially disruptive. Opponents are farmers, transportation companies and indoor entertainment.

Other plans?

So if we did away with daylight savings what if anything would take its place? One option would be to not only eliminate DST but to completely revamp the time zones in the US. America went to four time zones in 1883. Before that each city had its own time zone based on the position of the sun overhead. As you can imagine railroads and other time sensitive activities were hard to coordinate.

Currently we have four main time zones in the US. Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. So the plan would be that the Eastern Time zone would set their clocks back one hour as normal for this time of year. The central and mountain zones would not change their clocks at all and the Pacific would set their clocks ahead one-hour creating just two time zones in the US and making things a lot simpler.

Living in Midwest for most of my life we did things at about the same time in the central time zone as the Eastern Time zone. For example “film at 11” on the East coast was “film at 10” in the central time zone. People watching “60 Minutes” in New York and Chicago were sitting in front of their TV’s at the exact same moment in time even though the clocks showed different times by one hour.

Some Final Thoughts

Time zones were set up in 24-hour segments of 15 degrees each around the globe. This worked fine before air travel, financial markets, and cell phones. Now business is conducted 24/7 around the world and maybe fewer time zones might be the answer to some of the confusion.

Times would be less confusing. Sleep cycles would be more consistent. Things might actually run a little smoother and more efficiently. I guess the only problem remaining to be solved is what do you do with Alaska and Hawaii? Perhaps they are just on their own time.

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