Driving Home In The Dark

For a long time, I’ve been pissed off about Daylight Savings Time. In my job, I work with a lot of people across the country, and thus I get into work early (7:30 or so) and leave about 5:00 PM. Before it went into effect this year, each morning I would drive to work in sunlight, and return home in sunlight. I’d have a good half an hour or more of evening dusk when I got home. After it went into effect, I still drove to work in the sunlight, but each day I drive home in the dark.

I had remembered learning, years ago, that it had something to do with making life easier on farmers. Which I never understood, because farmers live far more based on the earth’s clock than man’s. But even so, I never quite understood why the rest of us would be stuck going along with it, when we no longer live an in agriculture-dominated society. Then, they changed the deal, making the duration of DST shorter in the hopes of being more “green”.

It turns out, though, that DST is actually rather pointless AND it is an energy-waster.

The Daylight Savings idea was one of Ben Franklin’s worst. He thought we’d all save candles if, in the summer, we started the day earlier on the clock, leaving more sunshine for the evening.

Politicians made it official: Move the clock one hour forward in the summer, to hoodwink people to get up earlier and leave more daylight hours for after work.

But now it turns out that Daylight Savings Time doesn’t save energy. Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant, writing in the New York Times, report on their recent study in Indiana, where implementation of Daylight Savings has been county-by-county, a perfect statistical testing ground.

They found that Daylight Savings cost one percent extra. Franklin didn’t figure on morning heaters and daytime air conditioning.

I lived in Indiana before DST was in effect there, while I attended Purdue. Half the year, I would be on the same time as my parents in Illinois, and half the year I’d be an hour ahead of them. While it was largely an annoyance, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I often chided my hoosier friends* about the residents of their state simply being incapable to comprehend DST and change their clocks.

But — and believe me, it pains me to say it — maybe Indiana was right? Could it be finally time to put an end to DST once and for all?

UPDATE 10:30 PM: Okay, folks… Mea culpa. I said I never quite understood the whole deal about DST, and then I proved myself completely correct. I’m still not a big fan of it, but thanks for pointing out my mistakes.

* For those of you not from the Midwest, you may not understand why those of us from the Chicago area would make fun of Indiana. And for those of you in Indiana, no offense is intended. But Chicagoans speak about Indiana like hoosiers speak about Kentucky… Not kindly.

  • Akston

    Obviously, you’ve neglected to consider all the advantages of the practice.

  • aworks

    I’m not sure you understand DST. WIthout DST this year, you would have been driving home in the dark most of October as well. DST kept you from driving home in the dark. That’s the point.

  • http://anarchangel.blogspot.com Chris Byrne

    Aworks, actually no it isn’t the point. The point was to synchronize railroad schedules with local daylight.

    But that’s beside the point. At this point in our world, DST is pointless. I live in AZ where we dont have it, and other than the inconvenience of dealing with everyone else who does, we much rpefer it that way.

  • Aimee

    That is one thing I miss about Arizona, but being back in Colorado, it is a pain trying to remember who is on what time. No matter where we have been, my in-laws are always an hour ahead, but my brother in-law in New Jersey, it was a headache trying to remember if he was 2 or 3 hours ahead. I do like though that my kids are walking to school with sunlight @ 7:30, The sunrise has been around 7.

  • http://www.persnicketycurmudgeon.com/blog Persncikety Curmudgeon

    Can anyone tell me how to reset my sundial for DST?

  • Nick

    Yes. DST results in more sun in the evening hours (which is why I like DST). You might want to rework this piece, Brad.

    Here’s some wiki on DST:
    Daylight saving time (DST; also, summer time in British English; see Terminology) is the convention of advancing clocks so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less. Typically clocks are adjusted forward one hour near the start of spring and are adjusted backward in autumn. Modern DST was first proposed in 1907 by the English builder William Willett. Many countries have used it since then; details vary by location and change occasionally.

    The practice is controversial.[1] Adding daylight to afternoons benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours,[2] but causes problems for farming, entertainment and other occupations tied to the sun.[3][4] Traffic fatalities are reduced when there is extra afternoon daylight;[5] its effect on health and crime is less clear. Although an early goal of DST was to reduce evening usage of incandescent lighting, formerly a primary use of electricity,[6] modern heating and cooling usage patterns greatly differ, and research about how DST currently affects energy use is limited and often contradictory.[7]

    DST’s occasional clock shifts present other challenges. They complicate timekeeping and can disrupt meetings, travel, billing, recordkeeping, medical devices, and heavy equipment.[8] Many computer-based systems can adjust their clocks automatically, but this can be limited and error-prone, particularly when DST rules change.[9]

  • Nick

    ….you know, I didn’t think I cared about whether we have DST or not, but changing would suck…..Less evening golf. Viva la DST.

  • Norm

    As I see it we should be on DST all the time. That way I wouldn’t be driving home in the dark. Brad wrote this from a winter perspective. DST is a Summer adjustment. It’s winter that’s messed up. Rather than doing away with DST do away with regular time.

  • http://www.persnicketycurmudgeon.com/blog Persncikety Curmudgeon

    Ah so Al Gore was right!? It is all about climate change!We must stop climate change! Do away with winter altogether and all will be well. Ooops I guess stopping the annual change would itself be change – but we can’t have that cause that would be change.

    Look, lets just give everyone a pair of night vision goggles – this would eliminate the need for daylight altogether. Think of all the implications – provide a boost to our military industrial complex, save electricity, cut pollution the benefits are endless.

  • tfr

    The very fact that energy use studies turn out contradictory points to a null conclusion: DST doesn’t do anything as far as energy use.
    I say go to permanent DST and chuck Standard Time. It’s the flipping back and forth that’s a pain in the butt.