Steve P. Calandrillo and Dustin E. Buehler, Time Well Spent: An Economic Analysis of Daylight Saving Time Legislation, 43 Wake Forest L. Rev. 45 (2008), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/134
Wake Forest Law Review
cost-benefit analysis, daylight savings time
Several nations implemented daylight saving time legislation in the last century, including the United States. The United States briefly experimented with year-round daylight saving time twice—during World War II and the energy crises in the 1970s. Agency studies and congressional hearings from the 1970s show several benefits of year-round daylight saving time, along with potential disadvantages. These studies are dated, and much has changed in the last thirty years. While congressional efforts to extend daylight saving time in 2007 have again focused on the energy savings this legislation would produce, far more meaningful benefits have been largely ignored.
This Article collects and analyzes modern research on daylight saving time, concluding that year-round daylight saving time would save hundreds of lives annually by decreasing motor vehicle and pedestrian fatalities. Furthermore, extra light in the evening hours reduces criminal activity and results in energy savings from decreased peak electricity demand. Finally, year-round daylight saving time would eliminate the negative effects caused by the current spring and fall time changes. These advantages significantly outweigh the potential costs of daylight saving during winter months. The time has come for Congress to enact year-round daylight saving time legislation-each year we wait costs hundreds of American lives and millions of dollars.
Part I of this Article examines the history of daylight saving time, from its origins as satirical fodder to the debates of the present day. This history shows that the United States has had an inconsistent (and not always rational) experience with daylight saving time. The nation oscillated between periods of uniform time observance and local time observance. It has twice experimented with year-round daylight saving time. If nothing else, the current summer observance of daylight saving time in the United States constitutes a middle point between the extremes of the past.
Part II of this Article examines empirical results, focusing in particular on studies and research from the United States' 1974 experiment with year-round daylight saving time during the energy crises. Agency studies and congressional hearings from the 1970s highlight several advantages and disadvantages of extended daylight saving. This portion of the Article also stresses that these dated studies should inform our analysis of the issue, but they should not dictate our conclusions-much has changed in the last thirty years.
Finally, Part III examines current studies and research using cost-benefit analysis and argues that Congress should implement year-round daylight saving time. Studies show that year-round daylight saving time has several significant advantages, including a decrease in motor vehicle and pedestrian fatalities, energy savings from reduced peak electricity demands, and a potential decrease in crime. Additionally, year-round daylight saving time avoids negative effects caused by the current spring and fall time changes. Finally, year-round daylight saving time does not endanger school children, and its benefits outweigh other notable disadvantages.
Thus, on balance, the benefits of extending daylight saving time dramatically outweigh its costs, and Congress should step up to adopt year-round daylight saving time legislation before hundreds of additional lives are sacrificed by those who seek nothing better than the status quo.