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Sunday, March 10, 2024

When Is Daylight Saving Time? - The New York Times

Why Do We Change the Clocks, Anyway?

"The twice-yearly ritual has roots in cost-cutting strategies of the late 19th century. A recent effort to end it has stalled in Congress.

The giant, ornate clock hands of Big Ben.
Benjamin Franklin is often credited as the first to suggest daylight saving time after realizing he was wasting his mornings by staying in bed.Leon Neal/Getty Images

Hello. You may be here to learn when is daylight saving time, or what is the time that we’re saving, or why does daylight saving time even exist.

Hopefully, this will answer those questions, and maybe a few more that hadn’t crossed your mind, like what do the railroad companies of the 19th century have to do with it and whether golf course owners have an interest in your sleep habits.

Here goes.

When is it?

Unlike other, easier-to-remember federal events, like the Fourth of July, in the United States the clock change is tied to a roving day: Since 2007, it has taken place on the second Sunday of March, when clocks spring forward an hour, and the first Sunday of November, when they go back. (In 2024, the clocks spring forward on March 10 and go back on Nov. 3.) 

In Britain and elsewhere in Europe, the clocks change on the last Sunday in March, and the last Sunday in October. (In 2024, those dates are March 31 and Oct. 27.)

American lawmakers in 1966, writing in the Uniform Time Act, decided that the right time of day for this shift was “2 o’clock antemeridian,” better known as 2 a.m.

What is it?

To farmers, daylight saving time is a disruptive schedule foisted on them by the federal government; a popular myth even blamed them for its existence. To some parents, it’s a nuisance that can throw bedtime into chaos. To small business owners, it’s great.

When it’s lighter out after work, people “are more likely to go out and do something, whether it’s in the neighborhood, a local park or some other experience,” said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, an industry group. “And that behavior shift also drives sales, whether at a favorite restaurant or the local convenience store.”

OK, if it wasn’t farmers, whose idea was this?

The idea is to move an hour of sunlight from the early morning to the evening, so that people can make more use of daylight. Benjamin Franklin is often credited as the first to suggest it in the 18th century, after he realized he was wasting his Parisian mornings by staying in bed. He proposed that the French fire cannons at sunrise to wake people up and reduce candle consumption at night.

Over the next 100 years, the Industrial Revolution laid the groundwork for his idea to enter government policy. For much of the 1800s, time was set according to the sun and the people running the clocks in every town and city, creating scores of conflicting, locally established “sun times.” It could be noon in New York, 12:05 in Philadelphia and 12:15 in Boston.

This caused problems for railway companies trying to deliver passengers and freight on time, as nobody agreed whose time it was. In the 1840s, British railroads adopted standard times to reduce confusion. American counterparts soon followed in an effort to fend off federal intervention.

In North America, a coalition of businessmen and scientists decided on time zones, and in 1883, U.S. and Canadian railroads adopted four (Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific) to streamline service. The shift was not universally well received. Evangelical Christians were among the strongest opponents, arguing that “time came from God and railroads were not to mess with it,” said Carlene Stephens, a curator at the National Museum of American History.

Once the time zone business was settled, it wasn’t long until Franklin’s idea for daylight saving was refashioned for the industrial world. In the 1900s, an English builder, William Willet, urged British lawmakers to shift the clocks to reap economic benefits. Parliament rejected the proposal in 1909, only to embrace it a few years later under the pressures of World War I. In 1916, Germany was the first European nation to enact the policy in an effort to cut energy costs, and over the next few years several Western nations followed suit.

In the United States, the federal government took oversight of time zones in 1918. And in March of that year, the country lost its first hour of sleep.

But why?

One of the oldest arguments for daylight saving time is that it can save energy costs. There have been many conflicting studies about whether actually it does.

A Department of Energy report from 2008 found that the extended daylight saving time signed by George W. Bush in 2005 saved about 0.5 percent in total electricity use per day. Also that year, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the shift in daylight saving time, “contrary to the policy’s intent,” increased residential electricity demand by about 1 percent, raising electricity bills in Indiana by $9 million per year and increasing pollution emissions.

Energy savings was precisely the argument President Richard M. Nixon used in 1974when he signed into law the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act amid a fuel crisis. But what started as a two-year experiment didn’t even make it the year. On Sept. 30, 1974, eight months after the experiment began, the Senate put the country back on standard time after widespread discontent.

Daylight saving time still has fervent supporters, especially among business advocates who argue it helps drive the economy.

Who wants to end it?

The European Union and several U.S. states, including California, Florida and Ohio, have either considered dropping the shift or taken steps to do so.

In March 2022, the Senate suddenly and unanimously passed legislation to do away with the twice-yearly time changes, making daylight saving time permanent. But the bill failed to make it out of the House. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, reintroduced the bill in March 2023 but it has not been taken up by the House yet.

“We’re ‘springing forward’ but should have never ‘fallen back,’” Mr. Rubio said in a statement in March 2024, adding that his bill “would end this stupid practice of changing our clocks back and forth.”

If Congress eventually passes the bill and if President Biden signs it, the new law would take about a year to implement.

In October 2022, Mexico ended daylight saving time for most of the country, but carved out an exception for the area along the United States border.

China, India and Russia do not use daylight saving time. Nor does Hawaii or most of Arizona. (The Navajo Nation, in northeastern Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, does observe.) Several U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and the United States Virgin Islands also do not apply daylight saving time. 

In 2020, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine called for the abolition of daylight saving time. In a statement, the academy said the shift, by disrupting the body’s natural clock, could cause an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular events, and could lead to more traffic accidents.

Daniel Victor and Remy Tumin contributed reporting."

When Is Daylight Saving Time? - The New York Times

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