FALL BACK TO MOVE AHEAD

By Judy Garrison

This year we set back our clocks on Sunday, November 1 at 1:59 am (according to the current rule specifying the first Sunday in November.) If our habit is to rise at 7 am we will wake up to more light than the day before. But, of course, now it will get dark earlier. It’s all very straightforward. Easy, right? Spring ahead (when switching to Daylight Saving Time [DST] in March—springtime); fall back in the fall, just as we learned in grammar school. However, there are some of us who have to make an extra effort to wrap our brains around this supposedly familiar concept of daylight shifting.

A changeover time of 2 am was certainly well chosen as a time of day that would minimize disruption. Few trains, planes and buses are running. It minimally affects bars and restaurants and prevents the day from switching to yesterday which would be confusing, as it would be if the change occurred at midnight. Additionally it happens before most early shift workers are affected. But some confusion does arise. As many states restrict bars from serving alcohol between 2 and 6 am, how to figure the rules in the fall when the time switches back one hour. Can bars serve alcohol for that additional hour? What does Frank Temming do, we wonder? Another theoretical confusion: imagine you have a 2 am rendezvous with someone from an adjoining time zone to the west that hasn’t yet adjusted its clocks. Due to the time readjustment complexities, you show up at different times, missing each other. Budding romances, when trust is still fragile, have foundered on lesser miscalculations than this.

And then there is the danger element during the switchover. While there is a solid argument for daylight saving time decreasing traffic accidents (fewer do occur in the evening during the warmer months), recent research tells us that pedestrian fatalities caused by cars soar at 6 pm during the weeks after the fall time change. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University speculate that drivers go through an adjustment period when dusk arrives earlier. Walkers are three times as likely to be hit and killed by cars right after the switch than in the months before DST ends. Factor in the heavy deer migration at dusk that we have in Andes, and we have even more of a reason to stress the importance of driver vigilance.

If you want to go really in depth into the origins and rationale for Daylight Saving time (called “Summer Time” in much of the world) go to the link: www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving. (The website uses a fun new technology called Spicy Nodes.) For now, let me offer the simple explanation for the initiation of DST: people wanted to make better use of daylight by moving an hour of it from morning to evening. Another strong argument was the alleged energy saving benefits, which shift over time, location, and with changing habits and new technology.

For those who plan way in advance, make a note that March 14, 2010 is when DST begins again, when we can start looking forward to enjoying those long summer evenings. Now, in November, we are facing long dark winter evenings, which have their own cozy appeal. Think of snuggling by the fireplace with a hot chocolate and a great book! ~

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