‘Daylight saving time’ is an expression that makes many groan in exasperation. The concept is usually disliked in most of the countries where it is implemented. But the controversy surrounding daylight saving goes beyond the annoyance it provokes. It poses a serious risk to people’s health and wellbeing. And it is also a risk factor for road accidents.
Daylight Saving Time in Canada
Daylight saving was first introduced in Thunder Bay, Ontario in 1908. Very soon, the other regions of Canada began to follow suit and adjust their clocks by one hour in March and November.
What exactly is daylight saving and why is it done?
Simply put, during spring and summer, days are longer. So countries in the northern hemisphere decided to capitalize on the extra hours of natural light. This could be done by taking away an hour from the morning and adding it to the evening.
“Fall Back, Spring Forward” is the expression many of us remember about daylight savings. On 8th March every year, when spring commences, Canada moves its clock forward by an hour. To avoid inconveniencing the public, the time shift happens when everyone is asleep. So, when the clock strikes 2 AM, time is advanced by an hour. So instead of 2 AM, clocks now show 3 AM. People have to adjust their watches, mobiles, laptops, wall clocks to reflect this change.
How will it help? Let us site a simple example. Suppose your office hours are 9 AM to 5 PM. When you sign out and commute home it is not actually 5 PM but 4 PM when daylight saving is on. (Well when you start work it is 8 AM but clocks will tell you it is 9 AM, so you WILL be working 8 hours). But you will be able to drive home when the sun is still out. So, there will be fewer risks of accidents.
Now, what is the rationale behind daylight saving?
Well like we explained, it helps to make the most of the ambient light. That, in turn, can grant you the following benefits-
- Less energy consumption. You save up on your power and utility bills. And it is beneficial for the economy of the country
- Crime rates drop. The crime rate escalates after sundown.
So, if there are so many perks associated with daylight saving, why does it continue to be so unpopular?
The hazards of daylight savings
Daylight saving isn’t quite the rosy picture as it is made out to be. It throws off a person’s circadian rhythm that regulates the sleep-wake pattern, metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature, and hormone production. Essentially, the body suffers an unpleasant jolt once daylight saving is enforced. Your body has to acclimate with the time change, it has to spring forward by an hour. It has to reset its own internal clock. And that is not an easy feat. Experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep a day. But in the week following the change in time, people on average get 2 – 2 ½ hours less sleep. This also raises the production of the stress hormone cortisol.
The effect is especially pronounced on people who are already suffering from a sleep disorder.
What does this mean for road safety?
When you are driving, or when you are simply a pedestrian, you have to be alert at all times. But sleep-deprived people have a hard time focusing on the traffic. This leads to accidents, especially in the morning when people are still feeling groggy from lack of sleep or because their body clocks are out of whack.
In Canada, on average nearly 28 deaths can be avoided annually if the country opts out of daylight saving.
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