During this round of daylight saving time (DST), many Americans find themselves struggling with the loss of one hour. However, others enjoy the fact that it’s not completely dark outside by the time they leave the office. Regardless of your stance, studies have proven that the “spring forward” round of DST saves lives, energy, and prevents crime due to the extended hours of daylight. There’s such a difference that some scientists believe that Congress should move the entire country to year-round DST; in other words keep the clocks permanently forward.
When there’s extended hours of daylight, less lives are put at risk, as studies show that evening rush hours are twice as fatal as morning ones for a variety of DST related reasons. Besides more people being on the road, it’s also more likely that intoxicated individuals are getting behind the wheel when it’s darker out. There’s also more of a rush for people to get home to take advantage of the little amount of daylight they would have left after a full day at work. This is especially true for those with children. When there’s extended daylight into the evenings, there’s less of a chance of an accident occurring because people are able to pay more attention to their surroundings.
A 2013 study found that improved lighting in the evenings also reduces crime rates by up to 20%. Oddly enough, this holds true the most with juvenile crimes, as kids under the age of 18 are more likely to commit a crime after school hours and in the early evening, especially considering at the beginning of the spring-to-fall DST it got dark by 4:30 in some areas of the country. Criminals tend to wait for it to be darker out to commit their crimes as there’s less of a chance of them being spotted by innocent bystanders. Crime rates in general are 30% less likely to happen during the morning/afternoon hours when it’s still light out.
Another major benefit to DST, and one of the original reasons we decided to start moving our clocks back and forth every year, is the amount of energy it saves annually. When the sun is out later in the day, natural energy sources have an extended period of time in which they can continue to create said energy.
More sun in the evening means less electric power is used for lighting, as well as a reduction in the amount of oil and gas needed to heat certain buildings and homes. For example, officials working at the California Energy Commission estimated that about 4% of the state’s winter energy usage could be saved if the clocks were permanently kept forward.
The biannual clock switching has also been proven to negatively affect individuals health and welfare. Heart attacks increase by 24% the week after we “spring our clocks forward” every March, the same type of increase occurs in the fall as well. When individuals don’t plan the switch in times accordingly with their night time routines it can lead to overall feelings of physical and mental fatigue, which can also lead to a series of other types of accidents.
Finally, there’s a major increase in recreational activities and consumer spending when the sun remains out later in the evening. Studies show that Americans are much more likely to go out and shop after work when the sun remains out during the spring months. This is extremely beneficial to the likes of local businesses and the economy in general.
In addition, Americans are more likely to get out and get some sort of physical activity when it’s light out in the evenings, as there’s less of a rush to race the sun as it sets. Extended hours of sunlight benefits our health, energy-use, and overall safety, and it’s why so many have made the argument that we should always have the clocks pushed forward. Only time will tell if our federal government will make the switch and reap the rewards of “marching forward” permanently.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.