Monday, October 17, 2016

Money Crashers: Is Daylight Savings Time Helpful or Harmful?

Lately, I seem to have more and more trouble getting myself out of bed in the morning. Then, by the time bedtime comes at night, I just don't feel ready to sleep, and it takes me a while to drop off.

If this were happening at any other time of year, I might think I needed to see a doctor. But right now, I suspect, the problem is that Daylight Saving Time is going on too long.

Back when I was a kid, Daylight Saving Time lasted only from the end of April through the end of October—six months out of the year. In 1986, when I was a teen, the start of DST got bumped back to early April, so we were spending more time on DST than we were on "Standard" time. And in 2005, DST got extended to a full eight months, starting in early March and lasting all the way until the start of November. Pushing the end of DST later in the fall was touted as a benefit for the kiddies, who would be able to go trick-or-treating in daylight (as if there were any fun in that).

Anyway, the point is, my internal clock expects DST to last for six months, seven at the most. As the days start getting shorter in October, my body starts wondering: shouldn't we be back on Standard Time by now? No? What about now? It's the end of the month...how about now?

Now, Congress had its reasons for extending DST back in '86 and again in '05. Allegedly, this move was supposed to save energy, improve traffic safety, and reduce violent crime. (The fact that it also made it possible to keep playing golf later in the day, resulting in massive pro-DST lobbying from the golf industry, was supposedly just a bonus.) But has it actually served those purposes?

Well, according to my research, yes and no. In my latest Money Crashers article, I delve into the effects of DST on energy use, crime, and traffic...as well as some effects on health, workplace safety, and the economy, which Congress didn't consider. And the upshot of it all seems to be that, yes, DST is good for some things...and really, really bad for others. So basically, whatever benefits we gain from resetting our clocks twice a year may be offset completely by the damage the time change does to our health and our productivity.

The issue is more complicated than that, of course, so if you really want to get a handle on it, check out the full article: Is Daylight Savings Time Helpful or Harmful? – History & Effects. It explores the various upsides and downsides of DST, then goes on to evaluate some suggestions for fixing the system to get more of the pros without so many cons.
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