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Warning: Impending sleep deprivation and increased accident rates

March 10, 2012 @ 13:05 By: gordon Category: Astronomy, Current affairs, General

Yup, it’s that time of year again. The time when we adjust our clocks forward by an hour. Unless, of course, you live in one of the more enlightened parts of the country like Saskatchewan, in which case carry on with whatever you were doing.

I, however, don’t live in Saskatchewan (or certain parts of Alberta, British Columbia, northwestern Ontario or Quebec), so come Sunday morning at 2am I’m going to set my clocks forward. (Actually, I’ll probably do it a little earlier because I hope to be asleep at 2am.) Fortunately, with the exception of my alarm clock, microwave and the little clock in my car, the various things that tell time in my life automatically adjust themselves when the clocks change.

Unfortunately, people don’t cope with time change quite so readily. This means that in the days immediately following the time change, there will be more accidents as a result of people being tired because their bodies haven’t adapted to the new schedule.

And given that the clocks are changed ostensibly to save energy, people are going to be disappointed because there’s never been any reliable proof that it has saved energy. Mostly, it just results in people shifting when they use the energy they’re using.

If you want to learn more about the history of daylight saving time, check out David Prerau’s book Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time (hardcover: 1560256559; softcover: 1560257962). It’s actually more interesting than it sounds. (But don’t tell Ken because he doesn’t want to hear about it!)

If you’re a *NIX system administrator you probably updated your systems a couple of years ago, but in case you haven’t you probably should take a look at this. The zdump command should give you something like this:

[gordon@seedling gordon]$ /usr/sbin/zdump -v /etc/localtime |grep 2012

/etc/localtime  Sun Mar 11 06:59:59 2012 UTC = Sun Mar 11 01:59:59 2012 EST isdst=0 gmtoff=-18000

/etc/localtime  Sun Mar 11 07:00:00 2012 UTC = Sun Mar 11 03:00:00 2012 EDT isdst=1 gmtoff=-14400

/etc/localtime  Sun Nov  4 05:59:59 2012 UTC = Sun Nov  4 01:59:59 2012 EDT isdst=1 gmtoff=-14400

/etc/localtime  Sun Nov  4 06:00:00 2012 UTC = Sun Nov  4 01:00:00 2012 EST isdst=0 gmtoff=-18000

7 Responses to “Warning: Impending sleep deprivation and increased accident rates”


  1. Ken says:

    I don’t mind hearing about the costs and benefits, if there is data to back it up.

    I just don’t want to hear the whining and bitching a moaning about it. And the claims that it costs more, or to use your example, more accidents without proof, stats, and so forth.

    Until I specific examples of what the time changes do, I’d rather people just accept it and stop complaining.

  2. Ken, there are assloads of stats, studies, facts, etc. Google is your friend in this matter. Since you’ve directly accused two people now of expounding without evidence, let me enlighten you:

    – A California Energy Commission report: “Electricity Savings From Early Daylight Saving Time” (2007). Result: No clear evidence that electricity would be saved from the earlier start to daylight saving time and that there was a chance that there could be a very small increase in electricity.

    – The California Energy Commission report: “The Effect of Early Daylight Saving Time on California Electricity Consumption: A Statistical Analysis.” Result: the extension of daylight saving time in March 2007 had little or no effect on energy consumption in California.

    – Research from University of California showed that a state-wide switch to daylight saving time would cost Indiana households about $8.6 million in electricity bills each year. The study also estimated social costs of increased pollution emissions that ranged from $1.6 to $5.3 million per year. Moreover, the reduced cost of lighting in afternoons during daylight-saving time was offset by higher air-conditioning costs on hot afternoons and increased heating costs on cool mornings.

    – When year-round daylight time was tried in 1973, one reason it was repealed was because of an increased number of school bus accidents in the morning.

    – Further, a study of traffic accidents throughout Canada in 1991 and 1992 by Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia before, during, and immediately after the so-called “spring forward” when DST begins in April. Alarmingly, he found an eight percent jump in traffic accidents on the Monday after clocks are moved ahead.

    – In 2008, economist William F. Shughart did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and estimated that the opportunity cost of daylight savings time was $1.7 billion per year: (… goes on to explain the calculation) That’s US, so one would expect about $170 million in Canada for direct costs.

    This information is widely available. Most people just aren’t interested so they don’t look for it.

  3. Ken says:

    Thank you.

    And yes, you’re right, I haven’t looked it up because, of all the problems we face on a daily basis, this is at the bottom of the list.

    I will say a few things: too bad there’s not more Canadian data; too bad a lot of that data is 40 years old; and especially too bad that the economist didn’t do a real study.

    Oh, and yes, when people expound on any subject – any at all – without backing it up, I’ll call them out, especially when they’re trying to convince me of something. I get it all the time when I discuss investments with clients. Many people have sat across from me claimed that they can make a whole lot of money going into real estate. I have yet to actually meet one that’s done it.

  4. I think the reason people against DST don’t cite chapter and verse every time it comes up is because most of the evidence is relatively well known. It would be like citing Newton every time someone talked about gravity.

    I think the most damning evidence against DST is the fact that in Canada, it was originally done to help farmers, but the most argiculture-oriented (Saskatchewan) province doesn’t have DST.

    In general, I am against make-work projects. DST makes work: it has tangible costs that can be documented. DST doesn’t produce results: it’s been around for over half a century and nobody can produce evidence that it doesn anything useful.

    Much like you asked for evidence, when I see something that has obvious costs, I want to see evidence of benefits. If there is no benefit, then we should stop spending money on it.

    You’re not from an IT background, nor do you come from any vocation I’m aware of in which correctness of time would matter, so you’ve not really experienced how muhc of a pain in the arse it can be.

    • gordon says:

      I blog about the time change twice a year and over the years I’ve cited various sources, including the book I mentioned. There’s also a study that was conducted in Australia a couple of years ago that determined that DST didn’t generate the 1% energy reduction and in some cases even resulted in increased consumption. It’s available at http://www.ucei.berkeley.edu/PDF/csemwp163.pdf (and I’ve cited it in the past, too.)

  5. Ken says:

    If the information was so readily known, then I wouldn’t be looking for it from the people making the claims. If one makes a claim about anything, one needs to prove it.

    Anyway…

    As for this: “You’re not from an IT background, nor do you come from any vocation I’m aware of in which correctness of time would matter, so you’ve not really experienced how muhc of a pain in the arse it can be”

    … you’d be wrong. Yes, I’m not from an IT background, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not experienced issues due to time restrictions. Financial reports need to be generated by a specific time so that I can do my job. If those reports aren’t done on time, then it affects me.

    That being said, it doesn’t mean that two time changes during the year are the cause of why I don’t get my reports on time. It’s more likely due to other issues.

    • Yesterday, your employer had to pay for multiple people to nitpick over the IT systems in all its data centres to ensure that the time change was done properly and fix any systems that didn’t roll over correctly.

      That work achieves nothing except oversight on a wholly arbitrary time decision. The cost to do that work gets passed on to consumers.

      It’s not a matter reports getting in on time. It’s a matter of throwing money away on a pursuit that generates no gain.


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  1. gordon.dewis.ca | Springing forward: Lose some sleep, increase your risk (March 09, 2013 @ 22:25)

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