At 2 a.m. Sunday, the clocks go forward one hour and Daylight Saving Time starts. Personally, I wish we could stay there.
The whole idea of shifting the clock one hour forward in spring and back in the fall was floated by U.S. inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin. He tossed out the idea in 1784. The reason behind it was to make better use of natural daylight by extending evening hours and saving coal-fired energy for artificial lighting. But it wasn’t until over a century later in 1895 when New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson proposed a two-hour daylight saving shift. Time dragged on again and it was finally Germany that stepped up to the plate – or the clock in this case – and set it forward at 11 p.m. April 30, 1916.
This was right in the middle of World War l. How confusing was that? But it gave the fighting lads an extra hour to battle at the end of an already exhausting day. Not to be outdone, Britain got into lockstep with the Germans and passed the Summer Time Act in 1916 after a campaign by builder William Willett. His original proposal was to move the clocks forward by 80 minutes in 20-minute weekly steps on Sundays in April then reverse it in September. Can you imagine how confusing that would be right in the middle of the war? But sanity prevailed and the 2 a.m. one-hour jump became law.
In Britain in 1940, the clocks (when already advanced for DST) were not put back an hour in the fall. Then in subsequent years, they continued to be advanced and put back during the remaining war years, effectively putting the country on British Double Summer Time (BDST). Then they were brought back in line with GMT in 1945.
Over 70 countries use DST today, most of them in the western world and mainly to take full use of daylight time in the evening, conserve energy, and decrease road accidents during heavily used evening times. However, it’s that throw-back into dark morning commutes that can put drivers, still groggy from that one-hour loss of sleep, at risk. Most people’s body rhythms adjust but it’s still a few weeks before an earlier sunrise lights the road. There is also an alleged link between the effects of DST and work related accidents and heart attacks.
Most of North America observes DST with the exception of Saskatchewan, Arizona, and Hawaii.
In British Columbia, a part of the Peace River area – Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Hudson’s Hope, Fort St. John, Taylor and Tumbler Ridge – does not observe DST. These regions are on Mountain Time so they are on the same time as Calgary and Edmonton in the winter and the same time as Vancouver in the summer.
If that’s confusing, it’s not as chaotic as it once was. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, cities in the U.S. could start and end DST when they wanted. In one crazy year, there were 23 pairs of DST start and end dates in Iowa alone. For five weeks each year, New York, Boston and Philadelphia were not on the same time as Washington, D.C. Cleveland or Baltimore. On one bus route from Ohio to West Virginia, passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles. That’s the stuff of stand-up comics!
Apparently I’m not alone in wanting to see a one-time-fits-all clock reset. Washington State Representative Elizabeth Scott floated a bill this year to eliminate DST and return the state to Pacific Standard Time.
Adjusting to the one-hour loss means catch-up zzzz’s on Sunday. You can’t blame the Western world for wanting to hit the snooze button.