Daylight savings time is on the horizon. About 70 countries practice daylight saving time, impacting over a billion people. But when did it all start? And is it worth your time? Here’s what you need to know.
History credits Ben Franklin with first coming up with the idea. But by all accounts he did it as a joke. He wrote an essay to a Paris publication, back in 1784, suggesting that Parisians could save money on candles if they just got out of bed earlier.
But it took the Germans to really get the modern day DST ball rolling. In 1916, they began setting clocks ahead in the spring and back in the fall in order to add more daylight hours to the work day and conserve fuel during WWI. Much of Europe followed. The US followed with the Standard Time Act setting the first US DTS for March 31, 1918, but abolished that after the war and DST became a local option. During WWII Franklin Roosevelt instituted ‘war time’ 1942 until 1945. 1945 to 1966 no federal law, but may states adopted DST. By 1964 about half of the states (27 of 48) were DST which caused problems, including for transportation industry. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 established standard time within established zones. Advance last Sunday April, back last Sunday October. States could exclude itself, but whole state had to. If observed, had to be those dates. 1972 amended allowing states in split time zones to exempt entire state or part in different time zone. DOT given power to enforce. The 1973 oil embargo, congress enacted trial period for year round DST beginning January 6 1974 ending April 27 1975. Amended Oct 1974 to standard time periods Oct 27 1974 to Feb 23 1975. Trial ended 1975, returned to summer DST. 1986 Congress updated the Uniform Time Act changed beginning of DST to first Sunday April end last Sunday April. 1987 to 2006. Energy Policy Act 2005 begins second Sunday march ends first Sunday November. Years when April 1 falls on Monday thru Wed, result in DST being longer.
It began to conserve energy. Whether or not it accomplishes that is still debated. There have been numerous studies including by the Department of Energy and Bureau of Economic Research. And other purposes have evolved over the years. For example, traffic safety, or allegedly reducing violent crime, depression and even heart attacks and workplace injuries aka seasonal affect disorder. Other say DST causes problems including with sleep. There have also been debates over what dates and for how long DST should apply. Historically it’s been about 6 months out of the year. And remember, not all states do DST.
It’s up to each state to decide if they want to follow DST. And if a state cross more than one time zone, they can decide for each time zone. States and territories that don’t do DST include Hawaii, Arizona, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Most because they have sunshine all day anyway. Some make this decision at the legislative level, others by the governor at the executive level. Here in Florida we follow DST but it’s arguably less useful than in some northern states since we have less variations in between summer and winter day length due to our location. We did have a Bill back in 2008 that would have abolished DST here. And the Sunshine Protection Act just passed the Florida Senate and House committees and is on its way to the Governor and Congress, meaning while the rest of the Eastern United States sets their clocks back in the fall, Florida may not.