Daylight saving time begins Sunday. Why are we still doing this?

It’s that time of the year again when we move the clocks forward by an hour to take advantage of more daylight during the second half of the day. Although we call this new time daylight saving time, we haven’t added any more daylight to our lives; we’ve only shifted when it occurs. A better term would be to call this daylight shifting time, but I doubt that would catch on.

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This idea of moving the clocks back and forth each year has been around for centuries. While Ben Franklin often gets the credit for coming up with the idea, he might not have been entirely serious when he did. According to Tufts University Professor Michael Downing, author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time,” Franklin often espoused the merits of conservation. Franklin argued money would be saved if people rose with the sun and turned in earlier at night, replacing hours of expensive candle use with free morning daylight.

While serving as ambassador to France, Franklin penned a letter to the Journal of Paris in which he sarcastically noted that the sun was already up when he awoke at 6 a.m. Franklin was making fun of French laziness and the fact they wouldn’t be up early enough to know it was already light at 6 a.m., according to “The Ingenious Dr. Franklin: Selected Scientific Letters,” edited by Nathan G. Goodman.

“I saw it (the sun) with my own eyes. And, having repeated this observation the three following mornings, I found always precisely the same result,” Franklin wrote.


Daylight saving time has been used in the U.S. and in many European countries since World War I, when it was introduced as a way to conserve the fuel needed to produce electric power. When the war was over, Congress overrode President Wilson’s veto and daylight saving time. It was reinstated during World War II. After that, some states continued to used it and others didn’t.

It was quite confusing.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 was signed into law on April 12, 1966, by President Lyndon Johnson. States could still opt out of daylight saving time by passing a law to do so. During the oil crisis of the early 1970s, the U.S. remained on daylight saving time year round.

In 2007, another law was passed extending daylight saving time to where we are today. We now switch the clocks forward the second Sunday in March and move them back the first Sunday in November.

The whole thing is rather silly, with the switch causing a documented increase in accidents. According to a 2004 study in Accident Analysis and Prevention, remaining on daylight saving time year round would save the lives of more than 170 pedestrians per year.

If your argument against daylight saving time is the dark mornings in winter, think again. Paris, France has a sunrise after 8:30 a.m. for most of December and January, and they manage.

In Boston, the latest sunrise of the year would be 8:14 a.m. during the first part of January, but the sun would never set before 4:30 p.m. again. If we left the clocks on standard time, the morning situation would improve and you’d still have the sun setting after 7 p.m most of the spring and summer.

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