The beginning of the month marked another November 1st Sunday dedicated to rolling our clocks back one hour. Millions of Americans “fell back” grateful for the extra hour of sleep and evening daylight. But what is Daylight Savings Time? Fire Inc. Atlanta provides an answer.
Daylight savings time was adopted by the United States in 1918 as a way to fully benefit from daylight hours in the winter, when days are shorter. Rather than having more daylight in the mornings—which we often sleep through—falling back one hour allows us to transfer that extra hour of daylight into the evenings, when more of us will be awake.
There is no law that mandates that communities must participate in daylight-savings time, but few have chosen to exempt themselves. In fact, there didn’t used to be such a thing as “standard time” until fairly recently. In the early 19th century (1800s), communities set their own time as they saw fit; because there was not mass transportation at that time, it wasn’t necessary to stay in line with other areas of the country.
But when railroads came around, it didn’t just bring a way for citizens to be transported easily from one end of the country to the other. It also brought with it the need for standardized time so railroad schedules could be set and published. So, the U.S. railroad industry decided in 1883 to establish official time zones and standard time within each zone. It was signed into law in 1918.
There have been a few periods of time that the U.S. has practiced daylight-savings time as a whole. It was originally part of the 1918 law but was repealed and made optional after just two years. It was again nationally observed during WWII. It wasn’t until 1966 that Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which specified start and end dates for daylight savings.
Of course, not everyone is a fan of daylight savings. Those that work early morning hours (such as farmers) will end up working more hours in the dark, gaining daylight when they need it least—evening. But there are also many benefits that have been observed—energy consumption goes down, as do traffic accidents, traffic fatalities, and incidences of crime.
So, unless you’re in an area that doesn’t observe it, be prepared to set your clocks back this weekend… for better or for worse.