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Daylights Savings Time

31 October 2016

Yesterday, the country woke up to the twice annual confusion of what time it really was, and the utter distrust of our usually so reliable electronic equipment. Shady eyes were thrown towards our phones and computer screens as we questioned whether that was in fact the right time – 10:00 am, surely not! Quickly followed by the realisation that we had no idea whether the clock had gone forward or back (they went back), and wondering whether or not the speaking clock is still a thing.

Yes, at 02:00 on Sunday morning the clock fell back one hour, plunging us all – some say unnecessarily – into physical and mental darkness.

But, why is it that we do this?

Back in 1907 a man named William Willet first started throwing around the idea of Daylight Savings Time. Frustrated with people wasting valuable hours of daylight during summer mornings, he created ‘The Waste of Daylight’ pamphlet and campaigned hard.

A few years later, during the First World War – and a year after Willet sadly died – Germany adopted the idea of daylight savings time, with Britain following a month later on May 21 1916. The idea was to look at every possible way of reducing the strain on the economy, and it was thought that DST would reduce coal consumption, making more available for the war effort.

However useful this practice was during war time, there are calls for it to be scrapped in today’s modern world – or made permanent.

Detractors will point to the dangers associated with the darker early mornings, with greater numbers of car accidents and a lack of productiveness. In fact, in 1968 when an all year round system was trialed, there were substantial increases in the numbers of people killed or injured in Northern Scotland – a trend explained through the ill effects of early morning darkness (in those areas the sunrise wasn’t until past 09:00).

Yet, there are benefits. Lighter evenings encourages more people to exercise outdoors, whether walking or engaging in other sports. There is a boost to the economy, and there are less road traffic accidents, making the world safer.

That doesn’t stop this time of year from feeling a little less bright though. In fact, today is the day where the winter blues officially start. The darker mornings, the increasingly colder and wetter weather, and less daylight hours in general all add up to the nation feeling blue, even if some us do prefer wrapping up warm.

According to a new study, whether to combat these winter blues or as part of them, today is when the nation officially goes into hibernation. We are more likely to buy warmer, more weatherproof clothing, we start to stock up on food and drink for the cold weather, and we begin going out to socialise less.

Still, it’s only seven weeks until Christmas.