By: ISABELLA CHECHELE
As we approach fall, the end of Daylight Savings Time nears. On November 1st at approximately 2AM PST, the clock will “fall back”, or be set back an hour. For example, 2AM PST would shift to 1AM PST. On March 14 in 2021, the clock will instead “spring forward”, or be set forward an hour.
So what is the reason for this change? The story you’ve probably heard is that Daylight Savings was created to give farmers more working hours; however, according to TIME.com’s article The Real Reason Why Daylight Saving Time Is a Thing, this is false. Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, states, “That farmers advocated for Daylight Saving is a common myth. In fact, Daylight Saving Time meant they had less time in the morning to get their milk and harvested crops to market.” According to Downing, Daylight Savings was actually created in an attempt to save energy during World War I.
If that was the case, however, then why do we still use Daylight Savings today? One explanation that seems agreeable is that it is still in place to give us more daylight during waking hours. With this in mind, is the abrupt time switch really worth it? Many argue it’s not. Members of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) Public Safety Team and Board of Directors recently published an article to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, stating that Daylight Savings should be abolished in favor of a “fixed, national, year-round standard time.”
The advisory was written out of more than pure annoyance for Daylight Savings. Losing an hour of sleep is difficult to adjust to, sure, but the AASM says it’s also dangerous. Their article on Daylight Savings, titled Daylight savings time: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement, says this: “…The acute transition from standard time to daylight saving time incurs significant public health and safety risks, including increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, mood disorders, and motor vehicle crashes.” For example, heart attacks have been far more common the Monday after springing forward, with hospitals reporting a 24 percent spike, compared to a 21 percent drop the Tuesday after falling back.
According to a recent study from the journal Current Biology, published on January 30, 2020, titled A Chronobiological Evaluation of the Acute Effects of Daylight Saving Time on Traffic Accident Risk, the change in light levels due to Daylight Savings is also a hazard. Researchers Josef Fritz, Trang VoPham, Kenneth P. Wright Jr. and Céline Vetter looked at 732,835 fatal MVAs (motor vehicle accidents) recorded across all 50 states from 1996 to 2017. They observed that “…spring DST significantly increased fatal MVA risk by 6%, which was more pronounced in the morning and in locations further west within a time zone.” To quote from their summary, “Because spring DST also shifts clock time 1 h later, mornings are darker and evenings brighter, changing illumination conditions for peak traffic density.” This explains the spike in MVAs during morning hours when it’s suddenly much harder to see even what’s right in front of you. And although later hours get more daylight, the study reports that “DST-associated MVA risk increased even in the afternoon hours.” This means that all around, the time switch causes more accidents than prevents them.
With such an urge to push away Daylight Savings Time, it seems that change is not very far away, and a future rid of time shifts is more realistic than not. We’ll just have to wait and see if our clocks stay stationary in the coming years.