Don’t forget to spring forward

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 8, 2009

If you are like me, today is one of my favorite days of the year, Daylight Saving Time. I can stay outside longer, get more done, and go to sleep later.

However getting this common practice into existence was more of a headache than one might think. I did a little research on the history of Daylight Saving Time — no “s” on Saving” — and thought some of you might enjoy knowing a little more about it.

Q: Who started daylight savings time?

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A: Believe it or not the concept of trying to adjust the time to increase daylight in the evening was first conceived in 1784 by none other than the brilliant Benjamin Franklin.

However it was not until 1907 when William Willett actually first proposed this change by moving clocks forward 20 minutes every Sunday in April then readjusting them back every Sunday in September. The reason was obvious then just like now. Everyone enjoys the long summer days.

In Europe as well as in the United States the length of daylight is longer during the summer months and shortest from November through February. Therefore to take advantage of these long summer days moving time backwards would allow everyone the advantage of extended evenings.

As expected this did hit some resistance especially from the agriculture community that preferred to work in early morning hours starting at sunrise. In older times people went to bed and woke up much earlier than they do today so many were reluctant to accept the change. However in 1909 the act finally got passed in Britain to change time during the summer to have lengthened daylight hours.

Daylight Saving Time has been changed and amended throughout the years especially during wartime.

The United States did not start using Daylight Saving Time until World War I. Then in World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted what was called “War Time,” which was year-round Daylight Saving Time, from February 9, 1942, to September 30, 1945. Also during World War II Britain actually put their clocks ahead 2 hours and called it “Double Summer Time.”

One of the biggest problems with starting daylight saving in the United States was the inconsistency around the nation. For planes, trains and buses making accurate schedules was difficult when different cities all had different times to pick-up, causing transportation officials headaches with time differing at every stop. With night clubs and bar rooms strict laws on not serving liquor after 2 a.m. raised issues so most laws simply stated “Liquor could not be served two hours past midnight.”

Finally in 1966 the Uniform Time Act was passed by President Lyndon Johnson to create daylight savings from the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. Any state that wanted to be exempt from Daylight Saving Time could do so by passing a state law. Then in 1972, congress revised the law so states splitting time zones could exempt the part of the state in a different time zone. Then in 1986, Daylight Saving Time was changed again to begin on the first Sunday of April. Finally in 2005 Congress passed the Energy Policy Act to extend it again starting in 2007 to begin at 2 a.m. the second Sunday of March till 2 a.m. the first Sunday of November. Research has shown that Daylight Saving Time saves millions by adding light to the day. People spend more time outdoors in the evening and go to bed earlier, therefore less energy is used. However Congress did retain the right to revert back the 1986 amendment should the change prove unpopular or if energy savings are not significant.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extensions Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201