Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sunburnt cows and daylight saving time

I am shocked. Really. The amount of time and energy devoted to ridiculous ‘social issues’ like daylight saving time could be devoted to so many other worthy causes.

The DS (or is the BS) debate has seen the light of day again this week (sorry about that) in WA, where farmers have cited an obscure 1996 study by Stanley Coren that shows an extra hour of daylight contributes to fatigue and therefore road accidents. Apparently the study found an 8% increase in road crashes the first Monday after the introduction of daylight savings time, compared to the previous Monday.

While it is quite obviously a scare campaign by the WA Farmers Federation (WAFF), their website appears not to be a spoof, and contains the following important questions for the concerned public to consider. I have reproduced them below with my personal response to each.

• Does it make it harder to put your children to bed, while it is still light outside?
Do you mean like when they have a daytime nap?

• Are people becoming more fatigued, as they are inclined to stay awake an hour later at night, and what safety concerns does this raise (i.e. accidents while driving)
Are they also inclined to stay up later because they can use lights? Why aren’t they inclined to sleep in longer?

• Does it make sense to be driving to work in the dark during the daylight saving period?
Like the rest of the year you mean?

• Does it put businesses out with their key trading partners in Asia, given that WA’s normal time zone is the most populist time zone in the world?
Get real. By this logic we should all have the same time zone. And while phone calls are instant (and business hours will still overlap for 7 hours a day) transportation of goods takes time – a lot longer than the one hour we are so concerned about. Oh, not mentioning that by changing time by and hour you get a whole lot of other regions in on the same time – you win some, you lose some.

• Are you concerned that children may be in the sun during the hotter and more dangerous part of the day during daylight saving?
They’ll be sleeping because they are fatigued from staying up late. Is that why it wouldn’t be safe? Wouldn’t want tired children playing.

• Are there animal welfare issues, from farmers being forced to work livestock during a hotter period of the day?
No one tells you how to run your business. You can do it at the same ‘sun time’ if you like.

• Is daylight saving convenient?
Depends who you are.

Apart from the fact that literally hundreds of millions of people across the world quite comfortably handle a change in timekeeping twice a year, there is further scientific evidence to show the fallacious nature of the WAFF claims.

Four months after the cited Coren study was published, a response citing a plethora of existing studies using much more detailed data was published that put the debate to rest. They find a reduction in the number of evening road accidents, but and increase dawn accidents, with a net effect 900 fewer fatal crashes based on data for Virginia. In fact they cite a rigorous natural experiment in the UK where daylight savings time was kept year round in a 3 year experiment, where a reduction road fatalities by 1100 a year was attributed to more evening hours of light.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that the favourite study of the WAFF also showed that there is an 8% decline in road accidents on the first Monday upon a return to non-daylight saving time, leaving the net effect on road accidents to be… zero, zip, none.

So the question I have is this. Why are the members of the WAFF so upset about daylight savings time as to spend $10,000 and plenty of their own time and effort on a scare campaign? Further, in the US, farmers are having much the same issue, and citing the same study by Coren to ditch daylight savings time. In fact most web sites against DS time cite this research.

I wonder if we did the reverse, and called DS time standard time, and called standard time daylight wasting (DW) time, would we have the same anti-DS campaigners join the anti-DW brigade? Don’t waste our winter daylight because it causes traffic accidents.

What if we flipped it around and had DS time in winter in QLD? We could then have the same summer evenings (sunset around 6:45pm), and longer winter evenings, with the latest sunrise in winter being 7:39am, but the earliest sunset delayed from 5pm to 6pm (with twilight for half and hour before sunrise and after sunset).

Personally I prefer winter DS time. But daylight savings or not I’ll be fine. Can we just stick to our decisions and stop filling the airwaves with nonsensical rubbish that confuses and intentionally deceives people for narrow-minded agendas?

I’ll leave you all with a quote:

Of course, anyone who really doesn’t like daylight saving could leave their watch unchanged, stick to their old schedules as far as possible, and just bear in mind that everyone else is using a different time. The reverse is true in the present situation if you really like daylight saving.

Oh, yes I get the irony about the waste of time and effort on DS debate, and the effort I spent writing this blog. That’s just how frustrated I am with intentional deception by farmer lobby groups.

1 comment:

  1. The farmers have no clue... what difference does DS make? it is purely adjusting the time so there is less sunlight when ppl are sleeping. Agree with you that there is way too much time and money spent on this argument..