Why are we still doing daylight savings time?

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.

20 thoughts on “Why are we still doing daylight savings time?

  1. When I was a kid, I used to love it when the clocks went back because it meant having an extra hour to fit in an extra movie during an all-night sci-fi/horror binge. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older now or because I’m living much farther north than I used to, but the fact that it’s going to be pitch black outside by the time I leave my office on weekdays is depressing. Also, it just seemed to sneak up on me this year; I’m really not ready for it to be dark all the time. So I have to say I wish they’d stop doing this, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s the american thing to do, Ben Franklin did it. Why not continue to follow in our patriotic duty. I’m half joking, good article by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well I am still confused that we could not figure out how to get rid of the 24 hour day and 60 seconds and minutes configuration. Our inabilities to make our lives easier is dumb.

    It looks like we can blame the Greeks and Egyptians for those, by the way. We can only blame our selves for the daylight saving fun.

    Lastly, for all that is good, I saw some pedantic Huffington Post piece complaining that it is “Daylight Saving Time” and not “Daylight Savings Time.” Which I of course shrugged at, but there is someone out there insisting on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm, I was under the impression that the 24 hour day and 60 seconds and minutes came from the Sumerians, but it’s definitely ancient.

      On “Daylight Savings” vs “Daylight Saving”, I stand corrected. Thanks. I’ll have to remember to get that right next time I rant about DST (probably in March at the next shift 🙂 )


  4. Hey, you could always move out here to Arizona! We don’t follow the rules in the wild west. But watch out for Navajo country…they still observe DS out there. And there’s a microscopic Hopi reservation inside the giant Navajo reservation that doesn’t observe DS, just like the rest of Arizona. Just to mix things up a little bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Personally, I’d prefer to stay on daylight time year round.

    I often wonder if the world wouldn’t be better off all switching to Greenwich Mean Time, or some other universal standard.

    I think this would create more problems than it would solve. You’d still essentially have to use the time zone offsets to know when things happen everywhere–including in your own zone. (Sunset, mealtimes, business hours, etc.) Local time is useful, and I think taking it away would mean more computation and confusion, not less.


    1. Agreed on saying on DST permanently.

      On everyone switching to GWT, UTC, or whatever, yes, I’d still have to think about whether you’re awake before calling you. But if I emailed, “Let’s video conference at 19:00,” to all my followers around the world, everyone would instantly know what time that was for them and whether they could make it. If I said 7:00 CST, everyone’s going to have to do calculations.


      1. Video conferences and the like are the rare cases. Knowing approximately what time the sun rises and sets, when work hours and mealtimes are–those are the common cases. Optimize for the common cases, not the edge cases. Local time is useful, as it does exactly that.

        Besides which, you still can schedule your video conference for e.g. 17:00 GMT.


        1. Maybe it’s just my line of work, but I often attend online presentations, conferences, and similar types of meetings, where it’s not uncommon to see time zone confusion. Interestingly, computer systems, to minimize coordination difficulties, already do everything in GMT. They just do the time zone calculation for you to show your local time.


      2. Maybe it’s just my line of work, but I often attend online presentations, conferences, and similar types of meetings, where it’s not uncommon to see time zone confusion.

        Yes, I think so. Incidentally, I am a STEM worker, but I don’t do those things or run into that confusion as often as you.

        Interestingly, computer systems, to minimize coordination difficulties, already do everything in GMT. They just do the time zone calculation for you to show your local time.

        Indeed. (In general.)

        I think there are good reasons why it is optimal for computers but not people to operate that way, but I’m not sure how to express it off the cuff.

        Of course, computerized schedulers should be useful tools in alleviating the confusion you described above. (Google calendar, MS Outlook, or whatever you use to schedule your conferences.) IME, when you send invites to guests, it adjusts for time zones. Also, in Google calendar at least, you can even enter the event in a different timezone, and it’ll adjust it to the correct local time. (Say you want an alarm 10 minutes before your eBay auction ends. You can just enter the time in PT…)


  6. I may not be understanding something here, but I am confused by your claim.

    The sun rises at different times every day. And I assume in places like the far north, when the time shifts dramatically as far as sun rises and sun sets, that they are okay with the time shifts. DST seems like only a minor way for correcting for that, and it does not seem like a significant problem anyways.

    As far as dinner times, it seems like we would easily get used to 3:00 AM being dinner time, since it is the average time of the sun setting year round, even if in China they eat dinner at (the more normal sounding?) 7:00 PM. As far as needing to shift dinner time from 3:00 AM or 4:00 AM as the sun slightly shifts, and therefore we are eating at, say, one hour after sun down, seems again, like a very easy adjustment to make. Such a change is one that I am sure many households naturally flux with as different concerns arise that are particular to them. It seems far easier that people would simply make the hourly adjustment to their personal dinner time, or that work places or schools would have an annual time shift, from say school starting at 6:00 AM instead of 7:00 AM, instead of literally shifting the clocks for society.

    I am confused by why we opted for the latter method. It might make sense with some unitary society, but still, that seems like a wash as far as procedure is concerned.


  7. Using universal time would complicate documenting events that occur at similar local times but which occur in many locales. For instance, when is moonrise and moonset? Or sunrise and sunset, for that matter? Or, when is “The 10:00 News” on?

    What I hated about DST was that it guaranteed you’d be going to work in the dark, and I really hate going to work in the dark.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a classic either-or situation. You either synchronize distant events to the same clock or you synchronize local events to a local clock. Can’t have it both ways on one clock. The conflict is just much more obvious these days what with that Global Village thing and all.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. Thank you. I see you were arguing a similar point of view. I suppose if we need to we can bring in Albert E. to explain there’s no such thing as time synchronization in the first place! 😀


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