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Spring Ahead?: The Controversial History of Daylight Saving Time

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Photo credit: Mukumbura via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

It’s time to spring ahead! At 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 12, most of us in the United States—unless we live in Arizona or Hawaii—will move our clocks forward one hour. While many people appreciate the extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day, just as many probably dread heading to work and school in the dark before sunrise.

Daylight Saving Time was first used to conserve energy during World War I. Today, more than 70 countries use Daylight Saving Time in at least part of their country. Researchers may be surprised to learn that Daylight Saving Time has such a confusing and complicated history in the U.S. and that there are many arguments for and against its use. Those in favor of DST argue that it saves energy, encourages more physical activity, and reduces accidents and crime. Opponents of DST say that it is economically disruptive, particularly to farmers, and dangerous for children who have to walk to morning bus stops in the dark.

Here is a brief timeline of legislation regarding time zones and Daylight Saving in the U.S.:

1784: Benjamin Franklin suggests the concept of daylight saving as a way to use fewer candles.

1883: American and Canadian railroads establish national time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of different local times.

March 19, 1918: Congress enacts a law to establish standard time zones and sets summer Daylight Saving Time to begin on March 31, 1918.

1919: The Daylight Saving Time law is repealed due to its unpopularity. It remains a local option and is continued in a few states and in some cities.

1942-1943: President Franklin Roosevelt institutes year-round Daylight Saving Time, also called “War Time”, during World War II.

1945-1966: There is no federal law regarding Daylight Saving Time so states and cities are free to choose when it begins and ends. This becomes a source of confusion, especially for the broadcasting industry, railways, airlines, and bus companies.

1966: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Uniform Time Act of 1966 which calls for Daylight Saving Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. The law allows any state that doesn’t want to use Daylight Saving Time to pass a state law exempting themselves.

Jan. 4, 1974: President Richard Nixon signs the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973 in an effort to conserve energy during the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Daylight Saving Time begins on Jan. 6, 1974 and ends on Oct. 27, 1974. Daylight Saving Time then resumes on Feb. 23, 1975, and ends on Oct. 26, 1975.

1986: Congress passes a law declaring that Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. begins at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and ends at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday of October.

2005: The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extends Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. beginning in 2007.

2007: The Energy Policy Act of 2005 goes into effect with Daylight Saving Time beginning at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ending at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.

Find student resources about Daylight Saving Time with these websites, articles, and Research Topics from SIRS Issues Researcher and eLibrary:

Daylight Saving Time

Does Daylight Savings Actually Save Energy?

It’s Not Just a Matter of Time

Research Topic: Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Daylight Saving Time Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary