Monday, March 9, 2015

Is Daylight Time Still Necessary?


This morning, I am groggy.  My body thinks it should still be asleep.

Statistics show there will be a higher number of car accidents in most parts of the United States than usual.

Why?

At 2am yesterday most parts of the United States suddenly lost an hour.  The clocks moved to 3am, and we (except for night workers and late night party people) slept on.  In the mornings many of us felt disoriented as the sunshine outside did not match up to the sun.   I'll feel out of balance for another day or so, and I am not the only person who feels that way.

In fact, more and more of us ask - why do we do this?  Is this necessary?  In fact, my beautician and I discussed this late last week.  Daylight saving time drives her crazy.  She doesn't see the point at all.


Neither do a lot of other people.

Yesterday was the day we in the United States (except in Arizona, Hawaii and some territories and possessions such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) went on Daylight Saving Time.  "Spring ahead, fall back" we remind ourselves. (We will get the "lost" hour back at 2am on November 1, fear not.)

But never mind Daylight Saving Time.  Did you know there was a time when there were no standardized time zones in the United States?

Back in the mid 19th century, the railroads hadn't yet found a way around coping with possibly up to 8,000 - yes, 8,000 - time zones in the United States. Local cities and towns set their own time, depending on the height of the sun in the sky to tell them when high noon was.  So, New York City might be on a different time than a city an hour away by train.  Just think of writing schedules, when every city had its own version of what time it was.

Each city and town having its own time worked when transportation was by walking or traveling by horse.  But, trains could run much faster.  Last year, I found something interesting online - a map from 1861, published two months after the Civil War began - something called "Lloyd's Americn Railroad Map, Showing the Whole Seat of War." 

On the map is a device called a Time Dial, which the railroads used to try to keep track of all those different local times, at least for 28 different cities.

Who said people in the 1860's weren't high tech?

Even the United States Civil War couldn't standardize time.  I had a brief taste of this kind of non-standardization for several years where my spouse and I traveled through Indiana when we lived in Kansas and then in Arkansas, and drove to visit relatives in New York.   Part of Indiana was on Eastern time. Part is on Central time.  Part was on Daylight time.  Part wasn't. 

Time wove back and forth and back and forth as we traveled from county to county. If we got out of our car to get gas, it was our best guess (in these days before Internet and cell phones) if we were on the same time as our last stop, an hour ahead, an hour behind, or even, the dreaded two hours behind.  (This situation was somewhat fixed in 2006).

Meanwhile, back to the 1800's. The railroads finally decided, in 1883, that they had had enough of local time. If the government wasn't going to standardize time, they would.  And so, on November 18, 1883, nearly twenty years after the Civil War ended, American and Canadian railroads started to use four standard time zones in the continental United States and Canada.  Municipalities and states followed.  And that is why we have "Standard" time zones even today.

Does your county or country go on Daylight Saving Time? If you do, do you feel it is still necessary?

8 comments:

  1. Loved reading about the history of our country's times! I would be so happy if DST were eliminated. I think the need for it has long passed!

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  2. Yes, we do Daylight Saving Time here in Florida, and I honestly thing there is NO need for it LOL

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  3. I felt the loss of an hour on Saturday evening. My body clock told me I was tired long before my normal sleeping time.

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  4. The first time I experienced the clocks moving 1 hour back due to daylight saving ending was in the fall of 2006 when I moved to US for a 6 month stay. That whole day I was left confused and read a lot about this concept on net. And I can recall it felt silly to me.

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  5. In England, we use daylight saving to help school children. Summer is the proper time, but the clocks go back in 'fall' so the children don't walk home from school in the dark. By the way, it's dark at about 4pm midwinter.

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  6. I read a book about history of DST - business-driven to save money on lighting costs in factories, mostly - and a recent proposal to dump DST and also make continental US into just 2 time zones: http://qz.com/142199/the-us-needs-to-retire-daylight-savings-and-just-have-two-time-zones-one-hour-apart/ - I think that she's right!!

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  7. WoW! 8000 time zones! thanks for sharing these facts. funny loosing an hour and then gaining it back.

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  8. DST doesn't bother me. I change the clocks on Friday and then ignore the time as much as possible the rest of the weekend. When I was working I enjoyed having the sun up after I got off work, especially during this part of the year. It is still nice enough for us to enjoy outdoor things and not melt.

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