The tricks we play with our clocks

Weighing the pros and cons of Daylight Savings Time

Carolyn Grant

Next Sunday, March 8 at 2 a.m. we spring forward into Daylight Savings Time — Summer Time as they call it in Britain.

Springing forward means more light in the evening, less in the morning. But there are a growing number of people who believe Daylight Savings should be abolished altogether. Just stop it. Who would care? Certainly not residents of Creston or Saskatchewan, who simply refuse to get on board.

Faced with having to wake up an hour earlier on work days, I tend to agree. Because suddenly 7 a.m. is 8 a.m., and your body, having become used to the slow increase of light in the morning must suddenly readjust to waking in the dark again. Did you know studies have shown that the risk of having a heart attack increases in the first three days after switching to DST?

I did not know that either, but I do now, having decided to delve into research about Daylight Savings Time. I now know more about DST than I really wanted to and find myself more confused than ever.

For instance:

A study by the U.S. Law Enforcement Assistance Administration found that crime was consistently less during periods of Daylight Saving Time than during comparable standard time periods. Data showed violent crime down 10 to 13 percent. It is clear that for most crimes where darkness is a factor, such as muggings, there are many more incidents after dusk than before dawn, so light in the evening is most welcome. Score one for the continuation of DST.

Studies link DST to reduced road injuries. A joint Transport Research Laboratory and University College of London study predicted that fewer people would be killed and injured in road accidents if one hour of daylight was transferred from the morning to the afternoon. Score two.

But conversely traffic accidents increase on the Monday following the start of DST. Tired drivers is the main reason. Remove the point.

But put it back again because the tourism industry believes DST makes people stay out later, spending more money on festivals, concerts, golf etc.

Confused yet?

Daylight Savings has been around for about 100 years, first appearing in Germany then Britain during the First World War, the rationale being that it would minimize the use of artificial light, saving fuel for the war effort. But ancient civilizations are known to have engaged in a practice similar to modern DST where they would adjust their daily schedules to the sun’s schedule. For example, the Roman water clocks used different scales for different months of the year, according to timeanddate.com

The switch to DST was not easy and led to much argument in jurisdictions all over the world.

One intriguing argument against it was put forward by Lord Balfour in Britain.

“Supposing some unfortunate lady was confined with twins and one child was born 10 minutes before 1 o’clock. … the time of birth of the two children would be reversed. … Such an alteration might conceivably affect the property and titles in that House.”

In the spring, for one night there is a gap when no babies are born at all: from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.  ­— a baby black hole.

In November 2007, Laura Cirioli of North Carolina gave birth to Peter at 1:32 a.m. and, 34 minutes later, to Allison. However, because Daylight Saving Time reverted to Standard Time at 2 a.m., Allison was born at 1:06 a.m. Thus the older child was born later than the younger.

Here is an even more interesting DST nugget of knowledge.

In September 1999, the West Bank was on Daylight Saving Time while Israel had just switched back to standard time. West Bank terrorists prepared time bombs and smuggled them to their Israeli counterparts, who misunderstood the time on the bombs. As the bombs were being planted, they exploded — one hour too early — killing three terrorists instead of the intended victims — two bus loads of people.

I have lost count of pros and cons at this point. I am so confused. I hope I remember to set my clock ahead this Sunday.