Daylight saving time 2017: Surprising things about springing forward

It's time for the time to change.

Daylight saving time begins soon -- at 2 a.m. Sunday clocks will move forward one hour as mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Some will gripe about losing an hour of sleep, while others are excited about the extra hour of daylight in the afternoons that DST affords.

Daylight saving time (not "savings") has been a contentious issue worldwide since it was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin in 1784.

Here are a few surprising things about the time change and the ripple effects caused by it:

*Railroads helped start more uniform time zones in the U.S., voting in 1883 to adopt a standard time.

*Before railroad time, cities used to set their own time, leading to confusion, especially when traveling. At one time there were 100 railroad time zones in the U.S. alone.

*Although the railroads adopted standard time in 1883, it was not made the law of the land in the U.S. until the Act of March 19, 1918, also known as the Standard Time Act.

*Daylight-saving time came and went in the 20th century but was used year-round from 1942 until 1945.

*As of 2007, daylight time begins in the United States on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

*According to David Prerau's book "Seize the Daylight," trains always adhere to their published schedules, so when it's time to "fall back" all Amtrak trains that are running on time stop in their tracks and wait an hour before resuming. When it's time to spring forward the trains automatically fall behind schedule at 2 a.m. but just have to do their best to make up the lost time.

*Reuters reported that a psychology journal in December published results showing that federal judges handed out sentences that were on average 5 percent longer the day after daylight saving time began than those given out one week before or after.

*According to National Geographic Nielsen TV ratings during the hours impacted by the change to daylight saving time show large declines during the first week of DST--as much as 10 to 15 percent, even for popular shows.

*A study by Hardee's fast-food chain estimated that extending DST would increase sales by $880 a week per store.

*A 2015 report by the Brookings Institution found that, on the first day of daylight saving time, robbery rates fall by an average of 7 percent.

*Canada experimented with "double daylight saving time" in 1988 and set clocks ahead by two hours at one time in order to capitalize on the long hours of sunlight in the northern latitudes. DDST didn't stick, however.

*Even Antarctica, where there is no daylight in the Southern Hemisphere winter and a stretch of 24-hour daylight in the summer, observes DST at some of its research stations in order to keep the same time as suppliers in Chile or New Zealand.

*As late as 1965 the observation of DST was still not uniform across the U.S. According to National Geographic in Minnesota, St. Paul was on one time, Minneapolis was on a different time, and Duluth was on Wisconsin time. There was even a Minneapolis office building in which the different floors of the building were observing different time zones because they were the offices of different counties.

*In the Northern Hemisphere, daylight has been increasing since the December solstice. Daylight will continue to increase until the summer solstice, which falls on June 20 at 11:24 p.m. CDT.

*Standard time resumes on Sunday Nov. 5, 2017.

Daylight saving time begins March 12 at 2 a.m. Remember to set clocks one hour ahead. (AL file photo)

Daylight Saving Time 2017: Remember to Spring Clocks Forward Tonight

It’s always nice to have extra daylight after work or school to enjoy the evening and we’re about to get another hour as we spring forward into Daylight Saving Time.

Fun fact: Though many people refer to the day clocks spring ahead as the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, it’s technically Daylight Saving Time.
For 2017, Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday, March 12. The time change officially takes place at 2 a.m., but you don’t have to spring out of bed and move the big hand on your clock ahead an hour. The change is automatic for most smartphones, computers, tablets and other digital devices.

If you’re still using an analog alarm clock, you’ll probably want to move it ahead before you go to sleep on Saturday, or when you wake up the next morning.

The start of DST is also a good time to change the batteries and make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.

A brief history

Ben Franklin was only kidding when he suggested 232 years ago that towns should employ the use of church bells or cannon blasts, if necessary, to wake citizens at sunrise so they could take full advantage of sunlight – a thrifty alternative to pricy candle power.

More than two centuries later, the joke's still on us. Daylight Saving Time is no longer just an amusing idea; it's taken hold with a vengeance. Twice a year we're forced to adjust our sleep habits, synchronizing our biological and digital clocks in order to squeeze more sunlight into our waking hours.

Meanwhile, sleep researchers insist we should be cutting back on our waking hours if we really want to live long and prosper. So here we are, caught somewhere between popping sleep aids and chugging Red Bull, not sure how to feel about our collective changing of the clocks.

David Prerau, recognized as one of the country's leading experts on our human quest for saving time, has devoted much of his life to chronicling the history and science of DST.

He served as a consultant to Congress back in 2005 when it enacted a law extending Daylight Saving Time as an energy saving measure, and he also has been a consultant on DST to the United Kingdom Parliament. He holds a Ph.D. from M.I.T.

Although Franklin certainly gets a historical nod for his amusing social commentary about our waste of perfectly good sunlight, Prerau points to British early riser and golf fanatic William Willett as the godfather of Daylight Saving Time.

"He used to go for early-morning horseback rides and wondered why nobody else was up enjoying this beautiful time of day," Prerau said.

Willett detailed his time-wise idea in a pamphlet, "The Waste of Daylight," and spent years lobbying Parliament in vain to adopt daylight-saving time – he died in 1915 before that would happen, Prerau said.
Germany was right on time, however.

Seeing merit in Willett's bright idea, they adopted it in 1916 to conserve energy and resources during World War I. That launched a daylight saving domino effect in countries around Europe. Britain was finally shamed into adopting the policy three weeks after Germany.

Not to be left in the dark by our European counterparts, the United States officially adopted Daylight Saving Time for the first time during World War I, and again during World War II. But it was not without controversy, even then.

By the end of WWI, city dwellers learned to love daylight saving, Prerau said. But country folk, still in tune with nature's clock, became disgruntled once they realized they'd actually have to rise before the sun if they were to get their goods on outbound trains that, under daylight saving, left town an hour earlier.

"Rural people bombarded Congress with requests to repeal Daylight Saving Time," Prerau said.

Among them, New Hampshire Gov. John H. Bartlett, who in April of 1920 went right to the top, urging President Woodrow Wilson by telegram to inform senators and congressmen "that New Hampshire demanded prompt action to remedy the injustice being done the rural communities through changes in railroad schedules to conform to daylight saving hours."

Bartlett didn't know Wilson was a big fan of daylight saving. When Congress voted to repeal daylight-saving legislation, Wilson vetoed it. And when Congress voted a second time to repeal it, Wilson vetoed, again.

"It was an interesting time in history," Prerau said. "Because then Congress voted to override Wilson's veto – that's how contentious it was," Prerau said. "If you look back in history, not many things are passed by overriding a presidential veto."

In his 2005 book, "Seize the Daylight," Prerau includes all kinds of historical anecdotes about the chaos that ensued over the random nature of daylight saving until federal legislation finally standardized it in 1966.
One of his favorites is the one about the bus ride that spanned 35 miles and seven time zones between Ohio and West Virginia.

"It became nationally famous as a sort of curiosity. People rode the bus just to change their watches seven times," he said.

Prerau believes the upside of Daylight Saving Time isn't economic; it's the lifestyle benefit. People have more time to mingle and recreate.

"People don't like driving in the dark, and daylight savings reduces traffic accidents. Crime is reduced also, because of that extra hour of daylight," he said.

Savings in electrical energy is only about 1 percent, said Prerau. "Which may sound low, but if you think of it as something you get for free, it's a good side benefit."

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 went into effect as of 2007, extending Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. by 3 to 4 weeks in the spring and one week in the fall. Since then, more studies are in the works to see if increased use of air conditioning may actually negate whatever savings were originally calculated, Prerau said.

"There's going to be more studies, and if they end up being negative, Congress may want to reconsider," Prerau said.

Time will tell. Either way, looks like Daylight Saving Time is here to stay. Prerau, for one, isn't losing sleep over it except, perhaps, on March 12, 2017.

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