Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 6, 2007

A real no-brainer: year-round Daylight Saving Time

Forgive my crabby mood – blame it on the end this past weekend of Daylight Saving Time and the unfortunate return of Standard Time.

By the way, that’s not a typo, the official name is “Saving” not “Savings” – despite the fact that the vast majority of people add that errant “s.” To heavily paraphrase William Penn, “Right is right and wrong is wrong, even if everyone else says ‘Savings’ instead of ‘Saving.’”

I’ll grant that Daylight Saving Time is a dumb name, as many have noted, because observing it doesn’t save daylight, but merely moves daylight from the morning to the evening.

As part of a 2005 energy bill, Congress extended our observance of Daylight Saving Time beginning this year, so it now begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

While I’m glad for the extra month, I’ve long argued for year-round Daylight Saving Time. That’s because I prefer my daylight in the early evening, when I can actually use it, rather than in the wee hours of the morning.

My utility-based argument is not the reason Daylight Saving Time began in the United States – it was a penny-pinching idea from my favorite Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin. He suggested it as a candle-saving measure in 1784, although it wasn’t implemented.

We Americans have had a on-again, off-again relationship with Daylight Saving Time. Versions of Daylight Saving Time have been implemented, abandoned and revised several times since 1918. During World War I and World War II, Daylight Saving Time was observed year round. The rest of the time, states implemented various versions of Daylight Saving Time until Congress decreed a schedule for time changes in 1966. But even now, not all states and territories participate.

I think it’s time to try again to implement Daylight Saving Time year round.

The cost-saving and energy-saving benefits of Daylight Saving Time have increasing appeal as the prices of oil and natural gas spiral.

Reducing our use of foreign oil reduces our financial assistance to and dependence upon countries that sponsor terrorism and reduces the amount of oil profits finding their way to terrorists who want to harm us.

But, in the face of global warming, we also know that reducing our use of oil, natural gas and coal by observing Daylight Saving Time year round reduces our greenhouse gases emissions, thus easing global warming.

Helping the environment and lowering indirect support of terrorism by reducing energy usage were concepts Franklin couldn’t have known – his motivation was frugality – but they are ideas that I’m sure he’d embrace.

Global warming skeptics, on the other hand, might not be persuaded by the eco-friendly arguments in favor of year-round Daylight Saving Time, although I’d think the antiterrorism arguments would have lots of sway.

I recently heard about another benefit of year-round Daylight Saving Time that should be persuasive no matter no matter which side of the global warming debate you’re on: Daylight Saving Time saves lives.

The Associated Press reports that two Carnegie Mellon University professors found that pedestrians’ risk of death jumps dramatically after the switch to Daylight Saving Time.

The problem isn’t the light level, according to CMU’s Paul Fischbeck and David Gerard, but adjusting to the time switch.

“They found that per-mile risk jumps 186 percent from October to November, but then drops 21 percent in December. …The drop-off by December indicates the risk is caused by the trouble both drivers and pedestrians have adjusting when darkness suddenly comes an hour earlier,” the AP’s Seth Borenstein reported. “The reverse happens in the morning when … daylight comes earlier. Pedestrian risk plummets, but there are fewer walkers then, too. The 13 lives saved at 6 a.m. don’t offset the 37 lost at 6 p.m., the researchers found.”

The AP also reported that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has calculated that adopting year-round Daylight Saving Time in the United States would save 200 deaths per year.

More than two years ago I advocated adopting year-round Daylight Saving Time. I wrote, “Here we are in 2005 with skyrocketing oil prices and the knowledge that terrorism is linked to many of the oil-producing countries we rely upon to feed our oil addiction. … It seems to me that the truly patriotic decision is to observe daylight-saving time year round.”

Now we know that observing Daylight Saving Time year round is an environmentally sound and lifesaving decision as well.

Let’s drop the twice-a-year clock switch and observe Daylight Saving Time all year.

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