Don't be late: Spring forward

Don't be late: Spring forward

March 10th, 2012 in Opinion Times

Area residents have at least two things to add to their bedtime routine tonight. First, they'll have to remember that Daylight Saving time starts at 2 a.m. Sunday. Then, they will have remember to set their clocks and other timepieces an hour ahead before going to sleep If they forget the "spring forward, fall back" rule, they'll likely be late for church, their morning walk or, for those who make it a custom, brunch.

Daylight Savings Time starts earlier and ends later now than it did in the past. If you want to blame someone for the changes, Congress is the proper target for your anger. It mandated an earlier start and later end of DST in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

DST has earned mixed reviews since then. A plurality of Americans like or at least accept it, while smaller numbers actively dislike it or have no opinion about it. Negative feelings about it is stronger in some places. It is not observed, for example, in Arizona, which refuses to do so because of energy and heat issues, or in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Controversy surrounding DST is not new. When the government first mandated DST during World War I, the object was to conserve energy for war industries by taking advantage of daylight in the warm weather months, but not all states abided by it. In World War II, the federal government required its use in every state. There were, of course, complaints about its necessity and utility. That hasn't changed.

After World War II, the government lifted its mandate about DST, employing instead a system in which states and even counties within them could use or not use daylight time as they wished. The result was a mess. In some states, the time changed from one county to the next. That confusion came to an end with the Uniform Time Act of 1966 which standardized the start and end of DST across the nation.

That act, enhanced and amended somewhat by the 2005 legislation, remains in force. Debate about the savings produced by DST, however, continues. Some newer studies suggest that DST leads to no energy savings and, in fact, might increase energy use because Americans' energy consumption no longer rises and falls to match daylight. There are other problems associated with DST, as well.

An added hour of light at the end of a day means an hour less at the beginning. Consequently, kids going to school and morning commuters do so in unaccustomed darkness. The result is predictable. The number of injuries and deaths to kids and commuters climbs in the first few days after the time changes. Then people adjust.

The lesson, then, is obvious. Since there is little likelihood that DST rules are going to change, people of all ages should "spring forward" with care and caution.