Here in the United States, daylight savings time ended today. We got an extra hour of sleep (yay!). But this is only a temporary reprieve. It’ll be back in the spring, when we’ll have to “spring forward” and start waking up an hour earlier again.
Multiple people put up articles this weekend pointing out that daylight savings time doesn’t work. Chris Mooney points out in a Washington Post piece that it may actually be costing us money. And Jamie Condliffe at Gizmodo pointing out that it doesn’t reduce fuel costs, avoid accidents, or make us any healthier.
So, given the fact that the science is, at best inconclusive, and at worst showing that daylight savings doesn’t accomplish its aims, why do we in the US continue to do it? I suspect the primary reason is retail sales. I don’t know whether or not it’s true, but most retailers seem to believe that their sales are higher during daylight and drop after sunset. I think this is why Congress continues to be lobbied for daylight savings time, and why they actually increased it a few years ago.
But I suspect that society has largely adapted to daylight savings, which is why the effects have become elusive. As I understand it, the practice of switching off of it in the winter is supposed to stop that from happening, but we’ve been on it so long now, and increased the time that it’s in effect for so much of the year, that it has essentially become baked into people’s habits and business’s schedules.
I don’t mind the fall transition, but the spring transition is onerous, often taking me a week or two to get used to. It’s gotten worse as I’ve aged. From what I read, I’m a mild case. Many people find it a pointless burden and wish we’d just stop it. I have to agree.
But this also gets into why we have the overall time zone system in the first place. I often wonder if the world wouldn’t be better off all switching to Greenwich Mean Time, or some other universal standard. Yes, it would be weird at first to wake up at 13:00, but once we got used to it, it would just be our new normal, and a lot of time zone confusion would be gone.