Saturday, July 23, 2005

Spring forward at your own risk

Does Daylight Savings Time kill people? The answer is apparently yes, according to a 1998 study:

Two major points are made by these data. The first is a confirmation of the fact that following the spring shift to Daylight Savings Time (when one hour of sleep is lost) there is a measurable increase in the number of traffic accidents that result in fatalities. Furthermore, it replicates the absence of any “rebound” reduction of accidents following the fall shift to DST (when the opportunity is present for an additional hour of sleep).

Interesting commentary on human nature. People won't go to bed earlier when the clocks are set forward, and they'll stay up later when the clocks are set back.

I dislike Daylight Savings Time for less existential reasons. For one, the complexities of resetting six different kinds of digital clocks in my house twice a year are daunting. Each had an owner's manual. But we threw those away - who keeps the owners manuals for small appliances, let alone the simplest, most basic electronic item of them all? And yet, every digital clock has maddening quirks that, without a written guide, can turn tinkering with them into a major chore.

More generally, I've never understood the need for DST. As the referenced post states, it's debatable whether it helps save energy. And if we are really serious about it, why not just permanently shift all U.S. times zones ahead by one hour? One reason for not going whole hog seems to be so that politicians can expand DST every decade or so and claim to be making progress.