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What Time Is It?

It occurs twice a year in the United States and 75 other countries around the world. The practice has, for generations, stirred controversy and debate among those of us who measure daily actions by the clock on the wall or around the wrist; which of course means all of us. Tampering with father time and Mother Nature has been a ritual for more than 100 years. Prior to 1966, individual states determined when or if changing standard time to something called daylight saving time would take place. In 1966 the U.S. Congress passed the Uniform Time Act which dictated when the practice of setting clocks forward and back again would occur.  The Act established that Daylight Saving Time begins on the second Sunday of March each year and ends on the first Sunday of November. States may opt-out of the whole process, as Arizona and Hawaii have, but opting-in requires satisfying the details of the Act’s regulations. So, how did all this tweaking of daylight and darkness get started?

While some historians like to blame Ben Franklin and an essay published in 1784, most believe the original idea achieved serious consideration after George Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist, proposed that the extra hour of daylight would afford him more time to collect bugs in the summer. But whether your passion is to collect bugs, play golf, participate in more outdoor summer activities or just have more opportunity to soak up the sun’s rays at the beach, the semi-annual messing with the ticker is currently unpopular with 70 percent of Americans. Today, support for the practice generally stems from economic reasons.

In a number of studies conducted between 2004 and 2014, researchers studied bar codes of the purchases of candy bars and found that nearly 60,000 households increased purchases of “variety packs” after clocks were set to daylight saving time the first weekend in March. Study co-author Charles Weinberg, a professor of marketing and behavioral science at the University of British Columbia, said “We wanted to see how this would play out in the real world, and through the study we’re seeing that you tend to buy more different types of candy bars, for example, on the day after daylight savings time (DST) than you would on other days of the week. That’s even after controlling for how many candy bars you choose.” Thank goodness that proponents of daylight saving time point out that its about more than candy bar sales.

It has long been noted that longer daylight hours make driving safer, lowers car accident rates, and lowers the risk of pedestrians being hit by a car. Economists Jennifer Doleac, PhD, and Nicholas Sanders, PhD, found that robberies drop about 7% overall, and 27% in the evening hours after the spring time change. They jointly stated, “Most street crime occurs in the evening around common commuting hours of 5 to 8 PM, and more ambient light during typical high-crime hours makes it easier for victims and passers-by to see potential threats and later identify wrongdoers.” The Chambers of Commerce also claims that DST has a positive effect on the economy in states where clocks are set forward in the spring. But not everyone projects a bright and sunny opinion about faux time.

William F. Shughart II, PhD, Economist at Utah State University, found that “the simple act of changing clocks costs Americans $1.7 billion in lost opportunity cost based on average hourly wages, meaning that the ten or so minutes spent moving clocks, watches, and devices forward and backward could be spent on something more productive.” Of course, we all can think of several unnecessary and unproductive and wasteful things we spend at least 10 minutes on every day. Other researchers found an increase in cluster headaches after the change back to standard time in the fall. James Wyatt, PhD, Associate Professor at Rush University Medical Center, says, “We’re encountering an increase in extra auto and workplace accidents on Monday or perhaps even carrying through the first week of the Spring time shift.” And believe it or not, the Lost-Hour Economic Index (yes there really is one), states “moving the clocks forward has a total cost to the US economy of $434 million nationally, when factoring in health issues, decreased productivity, and workplace injuries”. Anyone for a remedial course in inferential statistics?

Americans who often refer to the Monday after Spring-forward Sunday as “Sleepy Monday” object to DST because of the loss of an hour’s sleep. Of course, that problem could be avoided by going to bed an hour earlier in anticipation of the doxing issue. And then there is the issue of the human circadian clock being thrown out of whack. Oh my!

With all the discourse and debate, one might not be surprised that our politicians cannot resist in getting involved. Each year bi-patrician efforts in congress seek to change, alter or adjust the practice of tinkering with time, and like most everything else in Washington, nothing changes, time after time.

Don’t know about you but now that I’ve Fallen back, I can’t wait to Spring Forward!