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Editorial: Isn’t it time to fall away from daylight saving time?

From The Charleston Gazette-Mail, Daily Mail editorial:

“Instituted permanently in the United States in 1966, daylight saving time, the act of moving the clock back one hour in the fall and one hour forward in the spring, reduces energy use in the United States.

Or does it?

There is surprisingly little empirical research on the subject, but a 3-year study by Kotchen and co-researcher Laura Grant of households in southern Indiana showed that daylight saving time actually increases energy usage by about 1 percent. The researchers theorize that the energy consumption is greater in other parts of the country.

DST was first started widely around 1915 when lighting was the primary use of electricity, and there was evidence to show that households and businesses used less artificial light when daylight saving time was implemented.

But today, lighting is a much smaller percentage of the nation’s energy use, and Kotchen and Grant’s research indicates the time switch causes increased use of cooling and heating that burns more energy than is saved through reduced lighting.

Beyond energy savings or expense, a study presented earlier this year to the American Economic Association found that fatal vehicle crashes increased by about 6 percent over the 6 days immediately following the spring time transition, but didn’t change after the fall transition.

Because people lose an hour only in spring, and because the accidents weren’t concentrated at times when changes in daylight might have been a factor, the study’s author, Austin Smith, attributes the spike in crashes to inadequate sleep. He estimates that the 6 percent increase amounted to more than 300 added deaths over the 10-year period he studied.

And a 2013 index developed by Chmura Economics & Analytics shows the financial toll of an hour’s sleep lost in the spring costs the nation’s economy $434 million, based on heart attack incidence, workplace injuries in mining and construction, and cyberloafing.

The available research on daylight saving time causes many to wonder: Why are we still blindly switching back and forth with little definitive evidence as to the benefits and costs. Perhaps it’s time to do away with the time change; or at least commission some definitive research on the subject.

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