The times, they’re still a-changin’

Should we keep daylight saving time? Drop it? Do something else entirely?

With Daylight Saving Time (DST), there’s science on both sides – those who want to keep it and those who want to toss it out. There are arguments of every stripe: health, productivity, traffic accidents, energy use and even the economy all feature in arguments on both sides. They all have something in common, however: proportionally speaking, most aren’t effects that are so significant that it’s worth keeping it around.

A U.S. study found that there was a 0.7 per cent reduction in traffic fatalities with DST.  Opposite that, there are also studies that show an increase in traffic fatalities when people lose an hour of sleep (and consequently, fewer fatalities later when they get an additional hour).

While DST might increase daylight hours for leisure and recreation activities, it also affects our health in negative ways, like an increase in the number of heart attacks and a jump in the suicide rate. One study by a University of Alabama at Birmingham researcher showed a 10 per cent jump in the number of heart attacks on the Monday and Tuesday after an hour’s sleep is lost in the spring. That same researcher found that the opposite effect is true in the fall. (I think the important point there is that we should all be getting more sleep.) The biggest associated factors in the 2012 study were sleep deprivation, changes to the body’s circadian rhythm and a similar “body clock” change associated with the body’s immune system.

Kamloops resident Bob Dieno is behind the latest attempt to get rid of DST. His petition is showing that there’s some appetite to drop the practice, too. His petition to “Stop the time change in British Columbia” has garnered approximately 20,000 signatures as of midnight Monday, Nov. 2.

The petition uses arguments not unlike those above, mostly focusing on sleep deprivation and other health effects.

Something that seems to be absent from the time change debate is a “ground up” model of what might replace DST. The focus now seems to be on scrapping it, but no one is looking at other models of how we might live within our daylight hours with minimal disruption. Dropping DST now and re-evaluating after some years without seems like a smart thing to do. If we later conclude that there’s a problem, we can work on a solution then – but it doesn’t have to be DST.

Evert spring and fall when we’re forced to confront the tiny buttons on all of our clocks, this conversation re-emerges. It seems like it’s the same thing every year; I bet this very article has been written before, in fact. So let’s just get rid of it and see if the conversation continues. I bet it doesn’t.