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Time to Change Those Clocks

Daylight Saving Time begins this weekend

By Dante A. Ciampaglia | March 7 , 2008
Workers clean the clock face of Big Ben above the Houses of Parliament in London. (Photo: ©Stephen Hird /Reuters/Landov)
Workers clean the clock face of Big Ben above the Houses of Parliament in London. (Photo: ©Stephen Hird /Reuters/Landov)

It's the second Sunday in March. Do you know what time it is? It's the start of Daylight Saving Time, of course!

Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 9. Well, actually, it would be 3 a.m. because during DST, Americans set their clocks ahead one hour. That is, most Americans do. People who live in Hawaii and most of Arizona, for example, don't observe DST. For the rest of us, this Sunday marks the loss of an hour of sleep.

During World War I, Congress passed the Act of March 19, 1918, often referred to as the Standard Time Act. Besides legalizing the concept of “standard time,” a system that streamlined time zones and timekeeping in the United States, the Act also established Daylight Saving Time. The original intent behind DST was to reduce energy usage during wartime. Instead, the bill angered farmers who didn't want to adjust their work schedules. As a result, the law was repealed in 1919.

DST hung on in pockets of the country while falling out of favor in most of it. But with the onset of World War II, the practice was brought back into national favor. There was once again a special need for the conservation of resources, so DST was re-established. DST was in place beginning February 1942 through September 1945. When the war ended, its observance again varied across the country.

The second go-around for DST proved to be much more successful than the first. After World War II, national interest in DST was high enough to make the government enact a more permanent DST policy. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 standardized the start and end dates for DST. DST would start on the last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October. The government also allowed for local exceptions in the observance of DST. That's why states like Hawaii and Arizona are allowed to forgo DST.

Spring Ahead, Fall Back

While DST has been a permanent fixture in the United States for more than 40 years, it has undergone changes. In the mid-1970s, during the energy crisis, when gas prices were very high and the economy was in a major slump, Congress changed the start dates of DST. In 1974, DST began in early January, and in 1975, it began in late February in an effort to lessen energy needs and consumption. After those years, though, DST went back to beginning on the last Sunday in April.

Another change came in the late-1980s. Starting in 1987, the beginning of DST would permanently change to the first Sunday in April instead of the last. The end of DST—the last Sunday of October—stayed the same.

The most recent tweak to DST came just a few years ago. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was meant to address energy issues, including increasing energy prices. One provision of the bill changed how we observe DST. The start date and, for the first time, the end date of DST were changed in an effort to conserve energy. Since 2007, when the bill went into effect, we observe the beginning of DST on the second Sunday in March and the end of DST on the first Sunday in November.

Daylight Saving Time might seem like a nuisance because many of us lose an hour of sleep. But DST allows us to conserve energy by giving us an extra hour of daylight. So on Saturday, before you go to bed, remember to turn those clocks ahead an hour. You'll be able to start enjoying the extra hour of sunlight!

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