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Daylight Saving Time, Economically Speaking

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Sunday, March 11, at 2 a.m. will be the start of Daylight Saving Time 2012.

The relatively simple act of turning the clocks ahead by one hour in the spring when Daylight Saving Time occurs can translate into significant economic savings in terms of energy and personal safety. The concept was first brought to the public’s attention by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 when he wrote his essay, “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.”

Although Franklin was a bit ahead of his time with his concept, the idea did start to take shape during the early part of the twentieth century with the British Parliament enacting British Summer Time in 1916 and the United States resorting to the practice for a seven month period during World War I in order to conserve energy and resources for the war effort.

On average, 25 percent of the electricity used in the home is used for lighting and running small electrical and electronic appliances, such as computers, televisions, DVD’s and stereos. A large portion of this amount is consumed during the evening hours when most people are at home and using household energy.

By extending the daylight time of the evening by one hour, more people plan outdoor activities and spend more time engaged outdoors traveling, running errands or in other pursuits that limit the amount of energy they are using at home in the evening. Estimates vary on just how much energy is saved by Daylight Saving Time, ranging from less than one half percent to more than three percent, with the U.S. Department of Transportation stating that the energy usage of the country is reduced by one percent a day with Daylight Saving Time.

Regardless of exactly how much energy is saved, when that amount is multiplied out by all of the homes in the United States the total is pretty big. Tens of thousands of barrels of oil are saved each day during Daylight Saving Time.

The economic effects of Daylight Saving Time extend beyond just those resulting from lowered energy consumption. Daylight Saving Time saves lives and reduces traffic accidents and injuries. The U.S. Department of Transportation has estimated that an average of 50 lives are saved and 2,000 injuries are prevented during Daylight Saving Time. They have also translated this figure into approximately $28 million in savings in traffic accident expenses.

Daylight Saving Time is attributed to a reduction in certain crimes as well. When people have an extra hour of daylight to travel home from work or school, run errands and other activities, they reduce their exposure to various crimes that occur more often after dark. The economic and personal savings resulting from a reduction in crime is incalculable.

There are some who wish to extend Daylight Saving Time to a year-round practice. They claim that the high cost of energy and the potential for significant cost savings in that area make a strong case in favor of making such a change.

All that aside, personally I hate giving up the hour of sleep.  Oh well, I’ll make it up in October. Have a pleasant spring!

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