Daylight Saving Time: Going to Work and School in the Dark

With daylight saving time now in effect for two-thirds of the year, it's dark in the mornings, but sales of golf clubs are up.

It's pitch dark at 6.26 a.m., and the high school students stand in small clumps, murmuring quietly. Then, out of the darkness, the school bus arrives, an island of light in the blackness.

The grammar school students stand in the same spot as the high school students, but it is only marginally lighter. That's because their bus arrives at 7:22 a.m., and the sun doesn't rise until 7:16 a.m. These kids are going to be waiting for the school bus in total darkness until November. Welcome to the reality of extended daylight saving time (DST).

RELATED: WHO INVENTED DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME AND WHY?

What is daylight saving time?

DST is called "summertime" in the United Kingdom and European Union, sommerzeit in Germany, zomertijd in the Netherlands, kesäaika in Finland, heure d'été in France and horario de verano or hora de verano in Spanish-speaking countries.

DST is the practice of advancing clocks forward by one hour in the Spring, and backward by one hour in the Fall, resulting in more daylight in the evening, while sacrificing daylight in the morning.

The twice-a-year change to DST also causes disruptions to meetings, travel schedules, broadcasts, billing systems, records management, and people's circadian rhythms. It also forces people to update devices, such as programmable thermostats and clocks.

The history of daylight saving time

In 1784, Benjamin Franklin, who was the U.S. envoy to France, wrote an essay entitled "An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light," in which he proposed that the French could save money on candles by rising earlier. Not surprisingly, his proposal was not well received.

In 1905, prominent English builder William Willett wanted to play more golf in the evenings, so he proposed advancing the clock during the summer months, and a bill was proposed to the House of Commons on February 12, 1908.

William Willett memorial sundial, Petts Wood
William Willett memorial sundial, Petts Wood, London Source: P Ingerson/Wikimedia Commons

On May 1, 1916, during WWI, Germany instituted DST in an effort to save fuel, and the rest of Europe soon followed. The U.S. passed the Standard Time Act of March 19, 1918, which created the U.S. time zone system, and set DST to begin on March 31, 1918, and end on October 27, 1918.

Following WWI, DST was abolished in the U.S. until President Franklin Roosevelt instituted "War Time," on February 9, 1942. War Time was year-round DST, and it was in effect until September 30, 1945.

Between 1945 and 1966, there was no federal mandate for DST. Cities and states east of the Mississippi River and in the north of the country observed DST, while those who were west of the Mississippi, only California and Nevada observed DST.

The effect of these varying times made transportation timetables a nightmare, and the transportation industry asked for federal regulation. This resulted in the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which created Standard Time and DST, which would begin at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in April, and end at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in October. The Act also placed the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) overseeing time issues.

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The Uniform Time Act of 1966 allowed states to exempt themselves from DST, and both Arizona and Michigan did. For Arizona, having the sun go down as early as possible was desirable.

In 1972, Michigan reversed its position, and today only Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands don't follow DST.

A response to the oil crisis

In 1973, the oil embargo by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), caused the U.S. to institute year-round DST, beginning January 6, 1974, and ending April 27, 1975. While DST led to reduced lighting and heating demands, it also caused school children to leave for school in the dark.

On October 17, 1974, the U.S. returned to Standard Time until February 23, 1975, when DST resumed.

In April, 1976, a report by the National Bureau of Standards, which is today the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) entitled, "Review and Technical Evaluation of the DOT Daylight Saving Time Study" found DST provided no significant energy savings, but NIST did find there were increased fatalities among school children in the mornings.

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In 1986, the Uniform Time Act was amended so that DST began on the first Sunday in April, and ended on the last Sunday in October.

In 2007, the U.S. conformed to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, with most of the U.S. and Canada observing DST from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.

This means DST is now in effect for almost two-thirds of the year, and it created a DST period which is four weeks longer, except in years when April 1 falls on a Monday through Wednesday. In that case, the change results in a DST period that is five weeks longer.

In 2019, DST began at 2:00 a.m. local time on March 10 and will end at 2:00 a.m. local time on November 3.

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A report released in October 2008, showed a nationwide electricity savings of 0.03% for 2007. Another report done for the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that DST in Indiana increased consumption of heating and cooling from 2% to 4%, and cost the average Indiana household an extra $3.29 per year.

Golf versus kids

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted that DST increased the amount of shopping done after work, and the golf industry noted a considerable increase in revenue of "$200 million in additional sales of golf clubs and greens fees."

Wyoming Senator Michael Enzi and Michigan Representative Fred Upton noted that DST increased candy sales for Halloween. In 1987, both senators from Idaho, Larry Craig, and Mike Crapo voted to extend DST, reasoning that fast-food restaurants would sell more French fries during DST. Fries are made from Idaho potatoes.

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However, in some areas, the extension of DST into March and November means that the sun doesn't rise until after 8:30 a.m.

In 2015, Nevada asked to be placed on permanent DST, moving it an hour ahead of California during the Winter.

In 2018, California voters approved year-round daylight saving time, subject to Congressional approval. On March 6, 2018, Florida's Senate approved permanent DST, pending the approval of Congress.

In 2019, the Washington State Legislature requested that Congress amend federal law so that they can observe daylight saving time year-round.

DST across the world

Countries near the equator don't observe DST because their sunrise and sunset times don't vary greatly. For locations in far northern latitudes, such as Iceland, Scandinavia or Alaska, DST has little effect since the sun never dips below the horizon in the summer, and never rises above it in the winter.

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DST around the world
DST around the world. Source: TimeZonesBoy/Wikimedia Commons

DST is generally not observed in Asia or Africa. From 2011 to 2014, the Russian Federation switched to permanent DST, but complaints, due to the late sunrises in winter, caused the country to permanently switch back to Standard Time. During the month of Ramadan, Morocco sets its clocks back one hour relative to its Standard Time.

Member countries of the European Union all shift their clocks at the same time, with it changing at 01:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), 02:00 Central European Time (CET), and 03:00 Eastern European Time (EET).

By contrast, each time zone within the U.S. changes at 02:00 a.m., so for one hour in the Autumn, Mountain Time is zero hours ahead of Pacific Time, and for one hour in the Spring, it is two hours ahead of Pacific Time.

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DST is observed in some parts of Australia, but not others and Australian state jurisdictions not only change at different local times, but they also change on different dates. In 2008, most Australian states that observe DST shifted their clocks forward on October 5, while Western Australia shifted theirs on October 26.

In 2005, the Israeli Daylight Saving Law set times using the Jewish calendar, but computer operating system Microsoft Windows® couldn't cope with those rules, and this resulted in computer problems for Israeli residents. In 2013, Israel standardized its daylight saving time with the Gregorian calendar.

Countries that have sidestepped the twice-yearly time shifts and have moved to permanent daylight saving time include Argentina, Belarus, Saskatchewan province in Canada, Iceland, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Namibia, Singapore, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

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The table below displays those countries currently observing DST, and the DST beginning and ending dates.

Country/Territory DST start DST end
Akrotiri and Dhekelia (UK) Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Albania Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Andorra Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Australia First Sunday of October at 2:00 am First Sunday of April at 2:00 am
Austria Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Bahamas, The Second Sunday March First Sunday November
Belgium Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Bermuda (UK) Second Sunday March First Sunday November
Bosnia and Herzegovina Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Bulgaria Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Canada Second Sunday March at 2:00 a.m. (for most of Canada) First Sunday November at 2:00 a.m. (for most of Canada)
Chile First Sunday September First Sunday April
Croatia Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Cuba Second Sunday March First Sunday November
Cyprus Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Czech Republic Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Denmark Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Estonia Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Faroe Islands (DK) Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Fiji First Sunday November Third Sunday January
Finland Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
France Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Germany Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Greece Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Greenland (DK) Saturday before last Sunday March at 22:00 local time on Saturday before last Sunday October at 23:00 local time on
Guernsey (UK) Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Haiti Second Sunday March First Sunday November
Holy See Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Hungary Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Iran March 21–22 September 21–22
Ireland Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Isle of Man (UK) Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Israel Friday before last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Italy Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Jersey (UK) Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Jordan Last Friday March Last Friday October
Kosovo Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Latvia Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Lebanon Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Liechtenstein Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Lithuania Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Luxembourg Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Malta Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Mexico First Sunday April Last Sunday October
Moldova Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Monaco Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Montenegro Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Netherlands Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
New Zealand Last Sunday September First Sunday April
Norfolk Island (AU) First Sunday of October at 2:00 am First Sunday of April at 2:00 am
North Macedonia Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
Norway Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Paraguay First Sunday October Fourth Sunday March
Poland Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Portugal Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Romania Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Saint Pierre and Miquelon (FR) Second Sunday March First Sunday November
Samoa Last Sunday September First Sunday April
San Marino Last Sunday March Last Sunday of October
Serbia Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Slovakia Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Slovenia Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Spain Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Sweden Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Switzerland Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
Syria Last Friday March Last Friday October
Turks and Caicos (UK) Second Sunday March First Sunday November
Ukraine Last Sunday March Last Sunday October
United Kingdom Last Sunday March at 01:00 UTC Last Sunday October at 01:00 UTC
United States Second Sunday March First Sunday November
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