Have you fallen back? That’s what you were supposed to have done with your timepieces at 2 a.m., Nov. 5, to mark the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) for this year. “Spring forward, fall back” an hour, as they say.
In Colorado, DST runs from the first Sunday in March through the first Sunday in November.
But, there is a slowly growing movement to toss DST, like a broken old wind-up watch.
I’ll get into the pros and cons, but first, a little history. The original idea for DST first sprang from the fertile brain of Benjamin Franklin, who wanted folks to get up an hour earlier to conserve candles. However, it wasn’t by the U.S. Congress until we got into World War I. It ended after the war, and didn’t resume until World War II. The initial concept was to conserve energy by extending daylight working hours in the summer.
However, some research has shown that the concept sounds better than it works. For example, Daylight Saving Time apparently doesn’t save very much energy. After Indiana implemented DST in 2006, researchers discovered that it actually increased energy use in that state; our modern society, addicted to electronics, simply uses more energy with or without DST.
Additionally, researcher Austin Smith, at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, found that the change to DST in the spring is linked to more car crashes over the first six days. “I find that shifting ambient light reallocates fatalities within a day, while sleep deprivation caused by the spring transition increases risk,” Smith wrote. He believes that the spring transition caused 302 deaths over the ten-year period he studied. On the other hand, the transition out of DST in the fall was not connected to any increase in traffic accidents.
In fact, another CU scientist has discovered that the “fall back” transition may actually be good for your health. The reason is simple, according to researcher Ken Wright. “Many adults don’t get the recommended amount of sleep, which is a minimum of seven hours. So, if on this ‘fall-back weekend’ people get that extra hour of sleep in and get themselves into that seven-hour range, it seems to be associated with a reduced health risk.” For example, Wright found that the number of heart attacks reported on the Monday after falling back is about five percent lower than an average Monday.
If you suspect that the reverse is true on “spring forward” Monday, you’re right, according to Wright. Those days have been linked to a five percent increase in heart attacks, eight percent more strokes, and 17 percent more traffic fatalities.
However, other studies have found that DST reduces pedestrian fatalities by 13 percent during dawn and dusk hours.
Another positive effect of DST is that longer evenings motivate people to get more outdoor recreation and exercise. And, Colorado’s economy also benefits from DST. Longer evenings tend to boost shopping, event attendance, and tourist activities.
Ultimately, the future of DST in our state will be up to the legislature; a bill that would have put Colorado on Mountain Standard Time all year long was defeated this year. While there are many people who would like to eliminate DST, there are also quite a few who would like to see it extended to 365 days a year, and many who like things just as they are. Who will win this three-sided debate? Only time will tell.