Daylight Savings Time; What Time To Change Your Clocks And Why We Care

OPINION

By Mo Mozuch on March 8, 2013 10:54 AM EST

Daylight savings time
Time heals all wounds and also reminds you to check the batteries in your smoke detector. (Photo: Reuters)

Sorry sleepyheads! It's that time of year when we have to "spring ahead" one hour on our clocks. The official clocks of the United States government will change by an hour at 2 a.m. Sunday, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which regulates daylight savings and time zones in the country. Of course, in today's wired world most clocks, like the one in your smartphone, update automatically for daylight saving's time so the only ones most people need to adjust are the ones hanging on the wall or strapped to their wrists.

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[REMEMBER TO SET YOUR CLOCKS AHEAD ONE HOUR AT 2 A.M. SUNDAY MORNING FOR DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME.]

We always hear the "when"s of daylight savings time, but what are the "why"s?

Why Do We Call It Daylight Savings Time?

Because we "save" active hours of "daylight." An overuse of the phrase 'Daylight Savings Time' has conditioned us to place an "s" at the end of 'saving,' but masslive.com says it is grammatically unnecessary.

A thorough grammatical breakdown of daylight savings time explains that the word 'saving' in the context of 'Daylight Saving Time' is a verbal adjective, modifying time and giving us more detail about it. In essence we are saying that daylight savings time is a 'saving daylight kind of time,' and when looked at this way the grammatically correct way to express Sunday night's clock change would be daylight-saving time.

(If you have trouble sleeping Sunday night, read that paragraph five or six times. That should help.)

Why Do We Do Daylight Savings Time?

Trains.

Why Only One Ho ... wait, TRAINS?

Yes. Imagine taking a train from Boston to Cleveland and it's a different time zone when you get there, but you didn't know that until you got there. How would you know what time you arrived? How would the conductor? That's the dilemma that led to daylight savings time. Before there were established time zones local clocks were set according to astronomical observations. Ben Franklin suggested the idea for daylight savings time once, but he was kind of a creep and had syphilis so no one listened.

The people DID listen to syphilis-free not-a-creep William Willet. An Englishman, he suggested it again in 1907 when he observed people going to bed in the summertime even though the sun was up. He deemed it wasteful and eventually convinced the House of Parliament to introduce British Summer Time in 1916. When the U.S. needed to solve the whole  "people dying in train accidents because a conductor's watch stopped" situation in 1918 they established a timekeeping system that evolved into today's daylight savings time.

Why Should We Observe Daylight Savings Time?

It's the digital age. We're not farmers and trains are for the Amish. Why should we continue to observe daylight savings time?  

Money. More sunlight for working, even indoors, means less money spent on lighting homes and schools and offiices. It adds up. A 2004 study in Japan found the daylight savings time saved the country about $1 million worth of electricity. That figure doesn't include the environmental benefits of using less energy, which can add up to hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil.  

Safety. Fire departments across the country use daylight savings time as the annual reminder to check your smoke detector batteries.

"This is the perfect opportunity for homeowners to install, inspect and protect," Fire Marshal Josh Carson told the Elko Free Press. "A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the only thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you're awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke."

Since almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms getting a twice-a-year-reminder to check that smoke detector battery while you're standing on a chair pushing the clock in your kitchen forward isn't so stupid.

Tradition. This is 'Murica! We turn the clocks ahead just like our forefathers great-grandkids would've wanted. There's now law saying you HAVE to do it, either, so if you want to form a protest by being an hour late for everything for the next nine months go for it. This is a free country, and it usually runs on time.

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