Turning back the clocks: Daylight Standard Time explained


SAN DIEGO, November 1, 2014 – Most Americans will “fall back” today, setting their clocks back one hour as Daylight Saving Time officially ends at 2 a.m. November 2 and we return to Daylight Standard Time. There are a few exceptions. Hawaii, Arizona, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands don’t follow Daylight Saving Time, so they can ignore the time change as the rest of us sync back up with them.

Most industrialized countries in the world including the U.S. observe some type of daylight saving time and return to standard time in the fall, with Japan, India, and China being the major exceptions. Antarctica observes Daylight Saving Time, even though it has 24 hours of daylight much of the summer. It follows the same time as its closest contacts in Australia and Chile at supply stations.

“An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn is all that we ask in return for dazzling gifts. We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.”—Winston Churchill

The Navajo Nation observes Daylight Saving Time, part of which is in Arizona, a state that does not observe it. Located entirely within the Navajo Nation is the Hopi Nation, which doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time either, just like Arizona. For several months, the Hopi Nation stays with Standard Time, surrounded by the Navajo Nation on Daylight Time, which is in turn surrounded by the state of Arizona on Standard Time. You don’t need a watch to tell the time, you need a GPS map. Their clocks will all agree again Sunday.

After getting cranky over losing an hour of sleep last March, we revel in the ability to sleep in an extra hour this Sunday. But it’s small compensation for the afternoon commute to suddenly be in the dark.

This is the most dangerous time of year if you walk in the late afternoon and early evening. In the three weeks following the return to standard time, a Carnegie Mellon University study found that pedestrians are three times as likely to be hit and killed by cars after the time change. The same study found that the risk of being killed increased 186 percent for every mile walked after 6 p.m.

The study backs up 2001 statistics compiled by the University of Michigan which found that 65 pedestrians were killed in auto accidents the last week of Daylight Saving Time; and 227 pedestrians were killed in the week following the time change.

Daylight Saving Time used to end on the last Sunday in October, about a week before Election Day. Starting in 2007 an extra week was added so that Daylight Saving Time ended in November as a way to increase voter participation. The thinking is that more people would go to the polls after work if it was still light outside. That won’t help this year, since Election Day in on the Tuesday after the time changed back. But in 2010, and again in 2021, 2027, and 2032, the time change will happen after Election Day. This will give researchers the chance to find out whether this theory is true. Daylight Savings Time 2015 will return Sunday, March 8, 2015.

Research showing an increase in heart attacks after changing to Daylight Saving Time has been followed up by additional studies proving that heart attacks drop after we change back to standard time in the fall. Relax knowing you are far less likely to have a heart attack before Election Day this year. Better figure this into those election turnout studies; we may actually have more people alive to vote after the change back to standard time.

Why does the change happen at 2 a.m.? It was thought this time presented the minimum possible disruption, because it was when the fewest trains ran; most bars and restaurants would be closed or closing; and it prevents switching from one day back to the previous day which would be confusing. It is early enough that the entire country has plenty of time before daybreak to make the change, before most people working early shifts or early morning churchgoers would be affected.

If you work overnight, try explaining to the payroll department that you worked nine hours between midnight and 8 a.m. this Sunday, because you actually worked the 1 to 2 a.m. hour twice. It happened to me as a night news editor and every time I literally had to use a clock, explain that the hands moved back and the same hour happened again (visual aid shown here) before someone in payroll got it.

For the last 24 years, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the Energizer company have reminded people to change and test the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when setting the clocks to and from daylight saving time. Thirty percent of alarms and detectors are not functional at any given time due to dead batteries.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.



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