Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Discrimination against morning people

Yesterday, people all over the United States let out a huge groan when they woke up to find it pitch black outside. For most, rising at the same time on Sunday actually felt like morning with the rays of sunshine streaming through the window. Today, it was dark and dreary. Although your body and alarm clock said it was time to get ready for work, the sun was still dead asleep.

The recent changes to daylight savings time, starting 3 weeks earlier and ending 1 week later, have wreaked havoc on clocks all over the country. The shift of DST observance was referred to as a mini-Y2K, or Y2K7, disrupting computers, PDAs, cell phones, servers and even medical equipment. Essentially, any electronic device that was programmed to automatically correct its time to compensate for daylight savings time needs to be updated for the date change. Estimates on what this change cost companies in technology cost range from $350 million to $1 billion.

Businesses are impacted in ways other then the cost to upgrade technology. For many, calendaring programs just never catch up with the change. Productivity is affected by the number of meetings and appointments that are missed due to the time change. Not that most are complaining about missing a boring meeting for an hour, but it does cause management issues. This greatly effects the airline industry that has to account for the number of hours of sleep pilots and flight attendants are getting to adhere to FAA safety regulations. Flight cancellations and delays increase on the day clocks are changed.

And what about poor Arizona and Hawaii who stay on Standard Time 52 weeks a year? These states made the decision when Daylight Savings time was adopted to maintain Standard Time. This decision was based upon a number of factors, but primarily driven by the needs of nighttime dependant businesses. By extending daylight later, businesses like drive-in movies and planetariums were unable to operate efficiently. At least the one county in Indiana who refused to adopt Daylight Savings Time for decades changed their clocks this Sunday. This extension of Daylight Savings Time means that Standard Time is now only 18 weeks long. That would have been 34 weeks a year that one country had a different time then the rest of their neighbors. Can we really call 18 of 52 Standard?

Why the sudden change to take weeks away from Standard Time? There are some studies from scientists that increasing the number of hours of afternoon sunlight will decrease energy consumption in the United States. The US Government adopted the results of these studies into the Energy Bill of 2005. It is estimated that this change will equate to three one-hundredths of a percent decrease in annual electricity use. Did anyone in Washington D.C. ponder that the cost of this change could have been reinvested instead in energy solutions that could make a bigger impact?

This recent change is a government conspiracy against morning people. I am a proponent of Daylight Savings Time; however, disagree with the logic of this recent change. Switching our clocks does not give us additional daylight, it shifts the hours of useable daylight. The morning starts around 6:00 am. It should be dark prior to 6:00, to which Daylight Savings time is quite useful in the summer when Standard Time would have the sun rising prior to 5:00 am in many areas.

Changing the clocks this early in the season has actually decreased a morning person’s number of useable daylight hours. It is pitch black in the morning. It is dark until past 7, when many are on the roads getting to work and children are already lining up for the bus in the dark. For some, this change might be business as usual, but they obviously don’t have two dogs that demand a morning walk.

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