Is British Summer Time still useful?

The concept of daylight saving time was first proposed in 1895 by New Zealand entomologist George Hudson, who wanted more daylight to collect insects after work. But it was William Willett who successfully championed this idea.

Willett, a wealthy builder, had an aha moment one early summer morning while horseback riding in Kent. In 1907 he published a pamphlet, The waste of daylightwho noted that in the summer “the sun shines on the land for several hours each day while we sleep”, yet after work there is “only a short period of waning daylight” for leisure activities (an avid golfer, he liked it not to break off his round at dusk).

Pretty impractical, he suggested advance the clocks by 80 minutes in 20-minute weekly increments on Sundays in April and vice versa in September. He fought vigorously; but Parliament rejected the idea in 1909, and Willett was to die of the flu in 1915 before his plan was adopted.

When was his proposal accepted?

Germany was the first country to do this, deciding in April 1916 to advance the clocks to save electricity for lighting during World War I and thus boost production; The UK followed a few weeks later, using Greenwich Mean Time in the winter but switching to GMT+1 or British Summer Time (BST) in the summer months. The USA followed in March 1918.

In Britain, the move initially caused confusion and opposition, although the nation has largely stuck to the same system since 1916. In America, the confusion lasted longer. Daylight saving time was discontinued after the war due to farm lobby pressure, but some states retained it, resulting in a patchwork of several different time zones — until Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, which propagated the six-month standard and six-month daylight saving time . Today, Daylight Saving Time is used in about 70 countries and affects more than a billion people.

And what advantages does it bring?

It certainly helps us to enjoy long summer evenings. Furthermore, says Michael Downing, author of a book on the subject, “Daylight Saving Time opponents and proponents are still not sure exactly what it does”.

Studies suggest it increases physical activity – TV ratings for the evenings plummet as the clocks go forward in spring. It certainly reduces electricity consumption for lighting – although in the US it has been suggested that these savings are offset by additional energy use in leisure activities. It appears to reduce traffic accidents, which increase after dark, and is popular with business people as longer evenings encourage people to shop.

What are the disadvantages?

The actual time change is uncomfortable and unpopular and has noticeable negative effects. Scientists in Denmark studying 185,419 people diagnosed with depression found that the condition increased by 11% when the clocks were turned back in the fall, caused by the disruption in internal clocks and the suddenly shortened evenings.

Other studies have found that the risk of heart attacks, strokes and traffic accidents increases immediately after the clocks go forward in the spring, and judges then tend to impose harsh penalties, presumably for losing an hour of sleep. A YouGov survey 2019 found that people in the UK were moderately in favor of keeping BST, ranging from 44% to 39%. But a clear majority of Britons (59%) would like to stay permanently on daylight saving time.

Why don’t we?

Great Britain tried it between October 1968 and October 1971. Harold Wilson’s government introduced GMT+1 or British Standard Time all year round as an experiment. The Home Office reported that this has resulted in a significant drop in evening traffic fatalities and a slight increase in the morning, as well as significant electricity savings and an increase in outdoor sports.

Official polls showed it was supported by 50% of the population and opposed by 41%, but it was unpopular in Scotland where, in the dead of winter, the sun didn’t rise until 10am, meaning children went to school in the dark .

Business and tourism favored British Standard Time; Farmers, construction workers, and other early hires in the field, such as mail carriers, resented having to work long hours in the dark. In a free vote in 1970, the House of Commons voted 366 to 81 to return to the old system.

What positions have other nations taken?

Most nations that are not near the equator have some form of daylight saving time. The main exceptions are India, Russia and China. But whatever position a nation takes seems to remain contentious in some circles. Russia introduced permanent daylight saving time in 2011 and phased it out entirely in 2014.

In 2019, the European Parliament voted to end daylight saving time, although the proposal still needs to be approved by the European Council. In the US, on the other hand, a bipartisan group of senators unanimously voted in favor of the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021, which would make year-round daylight saving time the country’s law; Neither President Biden nor the House of Representatives have yet approved the measure.

Is a change likely in the UK?

In 2010, a private member’s bill was proposed calling for year-round daylight savings time. Alex Salmond called it an attempt to “plunge Scotland into the darkness of morning”. It was banned from Parliament; Jacob Rees-Mogg added a devastating amendment giving Somerset its own time zone.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is still campaigning for a year-round BST, which it estimates would reduce road deaths by 70 a year and have a host of other benefits, including a reduction in crime committed in the hours of darkness increases . Is British Summer Time still useful?

Fry Electronics Team

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