Daylight Saving Time Explained

Daylight Saving Time is the process of turning the clocks ahead one hour in the spring for the purpose of providing an extra house of daylight during the evening hours. This act is reversed in the fall when we turn the clocks back one hour and return to standard time. For those of us who have a hard time remembering which direction the clocks turn there is a little ditty that alleviates confusion-“Spring forward . . . Fall back.” This is supposed to inspire the vision of leaping forward in the spring and then falling backward in the autumn season.

The original idea for Daylight Saving Time came from Benjamin Franklin in an essay he wrote entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.” As far back as 1784 the idea that the natural light produced by the sun could be used to provide a certain level of “free” energy was observed. Franklin’s idea fell on deaf ears back then.

It wasn’t until 1907, when an Englishman by the name of William Willett suggested the idea be considered again, that the first steps were taken to introduce the concept. Willett observed that homes drew their shades based on the time of day even though the sun was still high in the sky. In his booklet, “The Waste of Daylight” he explained his views on the subject. His ideas were taken to heart and, in 1916, the British Parliament enacted “British Summer Time” to turn clocks one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time during the summer.

The United States soon followed briefly by placing the country on Daylight Saving Time for a seven month period during World War I, the idea being to conserve energy and resources for the war effort. This law was so unpopular at the time that it was soon repealed. Ironically enough, when the United States again found itself at war during World War II, Congress reinstated the law and clocks remained turned ahead one hour year round for three and a half years during that war.

Those countries observing the concept of Daylight Saving Time began to see real energy saving aspects to the process. After World War II the United States did not dictate that Daylight Saving Time must be observed. Various states and portions of states were free to observe or not as they saw fit.

This led to a certain amount of confusion for radio and television stations that might broadcast across areas where both the practice of observing Daylight Saving Time and the practice of not observing it were in place. Also, train and bus companies had to publish separate schedules for each location they serviced depending on local Daylight Saving Time policies.

By 1966, Daylight Saving Time was being observed in varying fashion all across the country. Congress enacted “The Uniform Time Act of 1966” to establish guidelines for how Daylight Saving Time should be observed. No state or locality was obligated to observe Daylight Saving Time, but those that did had to follow an established schedule for when to change the clocks. In recent years, the amount of time during the year that observes Daylight Saving Time has been extended by a few weeks in both directions. The compound effects of the energy savings during each extra day of extended daylight in the evening hours is significant in a world where energy costs account for some of the greatest expenses of living.

There are still many areas of the United States and throughout the world that choose not to observe Daylight Saving Time. Those that do, however, are able to enjoy the energy savings that comes along with reduced demands for lighting and electricity during that additional hour of daylight in the evening hours. Other advantages attributed to Daylight Saving Time are the reduction of traffic accidents due to people traveling home from work while it is still daylight and a reduction in some types of crime because people have more hours of evening daylight to carry out their errands and return home before dark.