Most Americans will be “falling back” this weekend as daylight-saving time takes its winter hiatus. This is the second year for DST to be extended, so perhaps we’re getting accustomed to the change in schedule by now. But whether it’s the last Sunday in October or the first Sunday in November, it’s the actual change that challenges most of us. The good news about the transition in autumn, though, is that clocks “fall back,” giving us the perception of an extra hour in the day.
Texas and most of the rest of the nation reverts to standard time at 2 a.m. Sunday, seven days later than has been the schedule for decades. In 2005, Congress approved legislation as part of an energy bill extending daylight-saving saving time this year. In areas where state legislatures have not exempted themselves, clocks now move back one hour on the first Sunday of November and move forward one hour on the second Sunday of March.
The originial dates were standardized by Congress in 1966, setting the switch-overs on the last Sunday in April and the last Sunday in October. In 1986, the start date was moved back to the first Sunday in April, and it had remained on that schedule until last year.
Daylight-saving time decreases the amount of daylight in the morning hours so that more daylight is available during the evening. That’s great for people who enjoy outdoor recreation, but not everyone benefits. Farmers and others who rise before dawn may have to operate in the dark a while longer before daybreak. Changing lifestyles were a factor, but it also proved to a fatal blow to drive-in movie theaters.
Daylight-saving time, however, can bring many benefits. Research has shown that more available daylight increases energy savings while decreasing the number of traffic accidents, traffic fatalities and incidences of crime. If you own an electronic device with clock-calendars - VCRs, telephone systems, computers and watches - that were manufactured before Congressional action in 2005 were programmed with the old daylight-saving time schedule. Those clocks “fell back” an hour last Sunday. Owners who adjusted the time this week will need to change it again Sunday. For detail-oriented folks, software patches exist to correct the schedule on some of these devices. But if that’s important to you, you probably handled it last spring.
Meanwhile, enjoy the extra hour the government is giving you this weekend. The way the federal budget is growing, time may be the only thing Washington can afford to hand out for a while.