The History (and Possible Future) of Daylight Saving Time

Whether it’s spring ahead or fall back, the semiannual time change caused by the beginning and end of daylight saving time (DST) can be a big bump in the road of routines. Getting kids to be on time for school, church, soccer practice, or anything else that requires punctuality is tough enough. Add in a time-change twice a year and it can make for some tough transitional days.

In most places within the United States, daylight saving time begins on the second Sunday in March and ends (switches back to standard time) on the first Sunday in November. This year’s “fall-back” time change will take place at 2 AM on Sunday November 3, 2019. And for the record, the correct wording and spelling is in fact daylight saving time, rather than the plural, daylight savings time, though the plural spelling has become popular in the U.S. and Canada.

Meanwhile, some believe all of this is unnecessary. And the inconveniences have caused some to debate whether daylight saving time even makes sense in today’s society. Many are calling for an end to the practice. It makes one wonder, why do we do this in the first place?

The Purpose of Daylight Saving Time

Daylight saving time isn’t the easiest concept to understand, but some sense can be made of it with a little history.

In New Zealand, entomologist George Vernon Hudson proposed the idea of daylight saving time in 1895. As a man who enjoyed collecting insects, Mr. Hudson wanted more daylight to pursue his hobby after work.

The idea was that by shifting clocks ahead by an hour in the spring, and back an hour in the fall, we would have more hours of useful daylight for work and play (without having to wake up earlier), with additional benefits like energy savings. Over the years that followed, others developed similar proposals for various reasons, including the conservation of energy during the evening hours in summer.

Daylight saving time was first officially adopted in 1916 by Germany and Austria during World War I, as a way to conserve coal. Over the next few years, several other countries adopted the practice, including the United States in 1918.

Today, daylight saving time varies depending on location. In fact, DST has been adopted, adjusted, and abandoned by countries and states over the decades that followed.

Some areas don’t observe it at all, while others have differing start and end dates, and this changes fairly regularly. In fact, two U.S. states choose not to observe DST at all, while Indiana adopted the practice state-wide in 2006 as several counties shifted from the Central Time Zone to Eastern Time, further adding to the confusion.

The Future of Daylight Saving Time

Many now doubt whether there is any real benefit to maintaining daylight saving time today or in the future. In addition to the general annoyances it causes, the time shift has been blamed for more accidents, more traffic, and even more heart attacks.

Due to the proliferation of electronic devices, power consumption doesn’t necessarily go down as the sun sets. In many cases, the use of electricity goes up during the day as people use TV’s, computers, air conditioners, and more. The light bulb just doesn’t use the portion of power it used to in the average home.

So will the U.S. ever end the practice of DST? Experts say it isn’t likely due to the challenges of changing a policy once in place and powerful lobbies that have an interest in keeping the practice going, such as recreation, BBQ, and home gardening lobbies. And there are many who do appreciate enjoying the extra daylight during those warm summer evenings.

What do you think? Do the benefits outweigh the issues for your family? What would you prefer to see happen with daylight saving time? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

This post originally published in March 2014 and has been revised and republished.

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