COMMENTARY: Like clockwork, most of the country continues the folly of Daylight Saving Time

By Mike Stafford Radio Host 640 Toronto

“Time keeps on slipping, into the future” — Steve Miller, “Fly Like An Eagle”

The Global News Radio 640 Toronto Morning Show was having a serious discussion on the startling number of pedestrians and cyclists involved in collisions with motor vehicles in Toronto this fall when the subject of human behaviour came up. We were trying to determine what measures could be enacted to help reduce the butcher’s bill of death and injuries.

We talked about expensive consultations and studies on traffic flow, lane widths, pedestrian crosswalk installations and speed limit reductions. It was then that I remembered the startling statistics published twice a year in most jurisdictions where vehicular traffic competes with two legs or two wheels: the not insignificant rise in accidents immediately after we either move the clocks forward or backward.

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On Sunday, most of Canada returned to Standard Time from Daylight Saving Time. And on Monday, I grimly await the police reports. The evidence is clear. When we mess with the clock, human behaviour fails to keep up with the artificially adjusted hours of sunrise and sunset. And we do it in November and March, the two times of the year when we’re all become used to longer or shorter periods of sunlight.

Listener Dave emailed me and asked: “Why do we continue to observe Daylight Saving Time?” I don’t have an answer, but I do have internet access and something called Google.

Apparently, the concept of moving the clocks forward one hour in the spring came as a collaborative effort between the Germans and the Austria-Hungary Empire in 1916. In their other notable collaboration from the time, they were The Central Powers in the First World War, and that didn’t work out very well for them.

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Since then, there have been a number of theories as to why nations move the clock twice a year. Energy cost savings ranks at the top of reasons it should happen but a number of studies have debunked the myth that money can even come close to mitigating the biological and social costs. In North America, jurisdictions opting out of the “spring forward/fall back” tended to be agrarian provinces and states. Shifting to DST and back tended to make the animals cranky. I’m down with that. I have a very vocal cat who lost his high school graduation watch years ago; he tends to use sunset/sunrise as his cue to start screaming to get out at the back door.

Most of Asia, Africa, every country near the equator and other scattered jurisdictions have abandoned DST as a necessary part of life. Fretful parents in the pampered First World argue that dark skies on winter mornings are too dangerous for children en route to school and brighter skies in the spring and summer evenings make it safer for kids at play. I guess when polio, whooping cough, malaria and a host of other childhood diseases have been almost exterminated, the available light on the horizon is the only thing left to be concerned with.

Nobody loves a 9:30 p.m. sunset more than I do in June and July but to see that extra hour, as Shakespeare wrote, “untimely ripped” away in November is not only a psychological blow, it clearly affects people biologically.

Let’s join Saskatchewan, Arizona, every Caribbean nation, Africa, Russia, Asia, Hawaii and half of Lloydminster, Alta., and put an end to this soon. The energy savings argument is folly, a darkening sky at 8:30 p.m. on a July night is more romantic than close to 10 p.m. and we all have so many devices we have to adjust twice a year.

Let’s keep the clocks where we set them yesterday and stop messing with the cosmos.

At the very least, won’t you help out my cat?

Mike Stafford is co-host of The Morning Show on Global News Radio 640 Toronto.

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