Is there anything better than Daylight Saving Time?
In my book, this time to “spring forward” is at the top of the list of things I most look forward to during the year. This year, DST will begin on March 13 at 2 a.m. (set your clocks forward to 3 a.m.). It will run until Sunday, Nov. 6.
Each year as I go around the house adjusting our clocks back an hour, I do that little touchdown victory dance in my head, knowing that even though we lose an hour of sleep, the days will become longer and there will be more sunshine to enjoy the day, especially outdoor activities.
But throughout its long history, Daylight Saving has had some unusual effects on a wide variety of things that I hadn’t even considered – some positive, some not so much. In doing a little research about the origins of Daylight Saving, I came across some little-known, but fascinating and fun facts.
For example, during the Vietnam War, a man born just after midnight DST was able to circumvent the draft by using a Daylight Saving time loophole. After he was drafted, he argued that Standard Time, not Daylight Saving was the official time for recording births in his home state of Delaware. He argued that because of this fact, he was actually born on the previous day, a day that had a much higher draft lottery number, which resulted in him avoiding being drafted.
In September 1999, Israel had just switched back to Standard Time, but the West Bank was still on Daylight Saving Time. When a couple of West Bank terrorists prepared time bombs and smuggled them to their Israel-based counterparts, they misunderstood the time on the bombs. As the bombs were being planted, they exploded one hour too early, killing three terrorists instead of the two busloads of people who were the intended victims.
I found the effect of DST on politics rather intriguing. Through 2006, about a week before Election Day (the Tuesday after the first Monday of November), the Daylight Saving Time period closed on the last Sunday in October. The more recent extension of Daylight Saving Time into November has been thought a way to encourage greater voter participation, the theory being that more people would hit the polls if it was still light when they returned home from work. The law that took effect in 2007 pushed the end of Daylight Saving Time to the first Sunday in November. In some years (2010, 2021, 2027, and 2032) this will fall after Election Day, giving researchers the opportunity to gauge its true effect on voter turnout.
For all you Amtrak passengers out there, you might be interested to know that in order to keep to the published timetables, a train cannot leave a station before the scheduled time. This means that when the clocks fall back one hour in November, all Amtrak trains in the U.S. that are running on time stop at 2:00 a.m. and wait one hour before resuming. Overnight passengers are often surprised to find their train at a dead stop and their travel time an hour longer than expected.
At the spring Daylight Saving Time change, trains instantaneously become an hour behind schedule at 2:00 a.m., but they just keep going and do their best to make up the time. Not exactly an exact science.
For all you opera lovers: the Berlin Opera was among the first institutions affected by Daylight Saving Time. Back on April 30, 1916, the clocks in Germany were scheduled to be set forward for the first time, from 11 p.m. to midnight. With clever forethought, the Berlin Opera changed its schedule in order to begin its performance of Die Meistersinger an hour earlier than usual. This allowed their grateful audience members to catch their customary trains (which did not run past midnight) at the end of the performance.
And finally, an interesting and timely tidbit I think we should all consider to be a valid excuse for extending Daylight Saving Time to the entire 12 months of the year.
Following the 1973 oil embargo, Congress extended Daylight Saving Time to eight months, rather than the normal six months. During that time, the Department of Transportation found that observing DST in March and April saved the equivalent in energy of 10,000 barrels of oil each day, a whopping total of 600,000 barrels in each of those two years.
Likewise, in 1986, the time change moved from the last Sunday in April to the first Sunday in April. No change was made to the ending date, the last Sunday in October. Adding the entire month of April to Daylight Saving Time is estimated to save the U.S. about 300,000 barrels of oil each year. Beginning in 2007, Daylight Saving Time commenced on the second Sunday in March and ended on the first Sunday in November, thereby saving even more oil.
Perhaps a DST extension could help lower the rising fuel prices we are currently experiencing? If so, it’s just one more good reason I say, “Hooray for Daylight Saving Time!”
Who’s with me?
Lynn Selich is a marketing communications and public relations consultant residing in Newport Beach. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook at Lynn Selich-Columnist or on twitter at https://twitter.com/LynnSelich.