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Posted at 01:32 PM ET, 03/09/2012

Daylight saving time: Frequently asked questions

Q: When does daylight saving time begin?

A: On Sunday, March 11, 2012, at 2 a.m., you should move your clocks ahead one hour (“Spring forward, fall back!”). That is, unless you live in Hawaii, Arizona and the Midway Islands and Wake Island, which do not observe daylight saving time.
Father Steve Planning takes care of Gonzaga College High School's 19th century manual clock. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Q: Don’t you mean daylight savings time, plural?

A: Nope. Not according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which says: “The rise of daylight savings time appears to have resulted from the avoidance of a miscue: When saving is used, readers might puzzle momentarily over whether saving is a gerund (the saving of daylight) or a participle (the time for saving). Also, of course, we commonly speak of how to “save time” (of saving time), and this compounds the possible confusion.”

Q: Why do we do this every year in March and November, anyway?

A: Short answer: To extend daylight hours into the evening in the warmest months of the year. Long answer: Daylight saving time was established in the Act of March 19,1918, sometimes called the Standard Time Act. DST was repealed in 1919, then reestablished during World War II. The 1966 Uniform Time act provided standardization in the dates DST is observed, but local exemptions were permitted. Since then, the start date has shifted several times, beginning as early as January during the energy crisis years in the ’70s. As of 2007, DST starts on the second Sunday in March, and ends on the first Sunday in November.

Q: Are there any benefits to DST?

A: Proponents say that it provides more time in the day for exercise and socialization, which makes people happier. Some say that the extra hour increases visibility and helps decrease traffic accidents, while others say that the lost hour of sleep can actually increase accidents. DST also may save energy, decreasing the amont of time that we use lights and appliances — according to some. Other studies have found that DST has had little effect on energy consumption. The tourism industry believes that DST gives them a boost, and a founder of the Daylight Saving Coalition once testified in Congress that fast-food restaurants sell more french fries in DST.

Q: Is there anything else I should do when my clocks change on Sunday?

A: Some suggest that the day is a good reminder to check your smoke detectors and create a home preparedness kit.

Q: How can I keep myself from being cranky and sleep-deprived on Monday?

A. Check out these tips from Washingtonian, which interviewed sleep specialist Vivek Jain. He recommends exercise, a hot shower and an early bedtime.

Q: I hate losing that hour of sleep every year. I think we should cancel DST. Anyone else agree with me?

A. Yep. Check out End Daylight Saving Time, a petition to “Stop the madness of changing the time twice a year.”

Q: Can I watch a video explaining DST in depth?

A: Here you go.

Q: Can I read a great story about how, in our digital era, the number of clocks that need to be changed manually are dwindling?

A: We just happen to have a great story about public clocks and time changes, by Joe Heim.

By  |  01:32 PM ET, 03/09/2012

 
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