The European Commission is about to recommend that EU member states abandon the practice of changing the clocks in spring and autumn.
Daylight Saving Time (DST) had its advantages one hundred years ago, but today, with new values and technology, Europeans are ready to ditch the practice. The largest online poll in EU found that more than 80% of citizens were against DST, with many in favor of staying on summer time throughout the year.
In 1916, Germany became the 1st country in Europe to implement DST in an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce weapons and bombs for World War I. Turning the clock an hour forward in the summer and an hour back in the winter was used to save energy and make better use of daylight. Within weeks, the concept spread across Europe (United Kingdom, France, Italy, Russia) and the world (even Australia).
After the war, countries changed opinions many times, until the oil crisis of the 1970s led to the reintroduction of DST in most European countries. In 1996, the European Union (EU) standardized the DST schedule and Switzerland and Norway followed.
Today, about 40% of countries worldwide participate in DST.
There are several pros going in favor of DST. It causes the Sun to rise and set at a later time, and so adds one hour of natural daylight to the afternoon schedule. This benefits sports, recreation and tourism industries. On brighter evenings people are more likely to go shopping, to restaurants, or other events. Further, adjusting daily routines to the daylight during summer may indeed help to save energy in countries between specific latitudes. Also, some studies have found that it contributes to improved road safety and a decrease in robberies.
However, a lot has changed since DST was first introduced. “You save some electric lighting in the evening, but you spend more gas for heating in the morning, and lighting has become more energy-efficient than heating,” Peter Liese, a German member of the Parliament who has fought for five years to abolish daylight saving time, said for The NYT.
In recent years, several member states have expressed a desire to abolish regular time changes, and in 2018 the European Parliament voted in favor of a resolution calling for a re-evaluation of the system.
Members of the European Parliament have been receiving many letters from citizens saying “we don’t like DST, it causes medical problems,” so the largest online survey in EU history took place between July 4 and August 16. Around 4.6 million people took part and more than 80 percent of respondents are in favor of abolishing changing the clocks in summer and winter. The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has decided it will push the EU Parliament and member states to ditch the DST system.
DST disrupts our bodys’ clocks or circadian rhythm. Losing an hour of sleep has some really worrying consequences. The risk of having a heart attack increases in the first 3 weekdays after switching to DST. Traffic accidents and workplace injuries are more common on Monday following the start of DST. Even miscarriages for in vitro fertilization patients have been linked with DST changes. Returning to standard time and losing one hour of afternoon daylight is linked with an increase in depression cases and suicide rates.
In addition, contrary to popular opinion, even the farmers do not like DST. Animals are beings of habit and do not like sudden changes in their schedule. Also, they need the sun to dry the dew off crops before they can be picked and taken to market.
DST opponents are getting louder by years. Today, the amount of energy saved from DST is minor. A study from Indiana shows increase in energy consumption after DST was introduced.
“We carried out a survey, millions responded and believe that in future, summer time should be year-round, and that’s what will happen,“ said EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
On October 28, 2018, at 01:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), clocks in most European countries will be turned by 1 hour. Perhaps for the last time.
If the initiative is successful, the last EU-wide DST period will start on Sunday, March 31st, 2019. Each member state will decide if they stay on summer time year-round or change their clocks once more in autumn of 2019, to observe permanent standard time.
This could create a confusing and potentially costly patchwork of times across the Continent. The proposed change, which still needs approval from the 28 national governments and MEPs (Members in the European Parlament) to become law, is set to be debated by commissioners.
The impact of daylight on modern work and lifestyle is changing as screens and light sources continue to replace our dependency on it in most countries in the developed world. Schedules overbooked with work obligations, activities, sports and social events require people to shift focus toward more efficient time management overall. Technology is stepping up to support our busy lifestyles with apps, reminders and tools designed to take the load off our back and help us stay productive. Even in science, new software tools are helping researchers reduce their time-consuming administrative tasks. In one article, scientists compared their time savings before and after the use of an electronic lab notebook. On average, they managed to save 9 hours per week by using the software. That is 9 more hours of daylight to enjoy without meddling with your timepiece. In general, it is time to let go of the old DST system.
So, clocks in most European countries will soon be turned by 1 hour. How was it again, one hour forward? Or backward? Learn in the video below:
By Andreja Gregoric, MSc