Yes: Is daylight saving time beneficial to society?
Daylight saving time ended Nov. 7 this year, and everyone has received an extra hour of sleep. There will be little argument for more sleep. So let’s focus more on the “spring-forward” start of Daylight saving. We will lose that same hour of sleep in the Spring. But what do we gain? Let’s count the benefits.
The extra hour of light comes in the narrow window of time when most people return home after work and school and finish a meal. This hour might double the time available for an after dinner walk – maybe to a local store. Such exercise serves to decrease cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death in the United States. And the local economies would appreciate the additional after-diner patronage.
That precious hour should also decrease our global warming crisis by reducing the time lights are burning in the homes in the evenings. Less lights would entail less use of electricity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, most of the electricity in the United States is produced from natural gas and coal. Burning less of these fossil fuels would mean less greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide released during combustion), which would trap less heat in the atmosphere, leading to reduced global warming.
There are also safety benefits to Daylight Saving Time (DST). Studies have shown the rather obvious correlation to lower accident rates in daylight compared to those in the dark. This is likely because people generally stay home when it’s dark outside. According to Jennifer L. Doleac and Nicholas J. Sanders, fighting crime with Daylight Saving Time will result in an overall 7% lower crime rate compared to standard time.
While the time changes could be an inconvenience, the human body is capable of adapting and becoming stronger as a result – as it does through exercise, But to eliminate even this minor tribulation, we could imagine DST might be made permanent – all year round.
If DST were made permanent, then in the middle of winter, the sunset would be moved from about 5:30PM to 6:30PM. And in February, the sunlight would be extended to 7PM for some invigorating early spring exercise. In addition, a study by Rutgers University professors Douglas Coate and Sara Markowitz concludes that pedestrian fatalities would be reduced by 171 per year, while motor vehicle occupant fatalities would be reduced by 195 per year if year-round DST was implemented.
In summary, while the biannual time change ritual can cause some inconvenience, the benefits of better health, lowered energy cost, and improved safety, would more than compensate. And there is an appealing alternative – to just make DST permanent.