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Daylight Saving Time in Western Australia

Western Australia has been trialing Daylight Saving Time for the past three years. Next week, residents of WA will vote to decide if DST will continue or if they will keep their clocks on the same time all year round. This will be the fourth vote on DST in 33 years in WA, the vote resulting in a resounding “no” each of the previous three times. In casual conversations with Western Australians, the topic often reverts to DST. Whether they are for or against daylight saving, everyone has a strong opinion on the issue and is eager to promote their stance.

Out of more than 180 countries in the world, only about 70 practice Daylight Saving Time. In many of these countries, including the United States and Australia, each state decides individually whether or not to follow the ritual. Indiana became the last US state to implement a statewide law regarding Daylight Saving Time in 2005; before that, some parts of the state followed it, and others didn’t!

Daylight Saving Time is so named because it is meant to “save” an hour of daylight. During DST, the clocks are turned forward one hour, moving an hour of daylight from morning to evening. Those who are in favor of this practice like it because it adds an hour of daylight to our waking hours, increasing the amount of time we can spend outside. There are more opportunities for social activities after work than in the morning, so extending the hours of daylight to include more evening hours is optimal for many people.

Opinions aside, there are several more documented reasons to favor of DST. Studies have shown that the number of traffic accidents and traffic fatalities actually decrease during DST, because the extra daylight at the end of the workday makes it easier for drivers making the daily commute to see. Crime is lessened for similar reasons. More people, criminals included, are out and about in the evening and nighttime hours than in the early morning, so having that extra hour of daylight in the evening gives those people less opportunity to commit crimes—whether violent, theft, or otherwise—because they are more likely to be seen.

Some studies claim that DST also saves resources, because more people are awake and likely to use electricity and heating or air conditioning in the evenings than in the early mornings. It is even argued that airline schedules are easier to synchronize when DST is in place, because the time zones are closer together than when we are on Standard Time.

Those who are against DST have their share of arguments, as well. Parents with young children say that changing the clocks disrupts their children’s sleep schedules and that children find it difficult to adjust to the altered time. Trying the get them into bed while it is still light out can also cause frustration.

Some people claim that having more hours of sunlight means longer, hotter days. However, many more refute this, explaining that we are not adding an hour of sunlight to the clock, we are simply making that hour of sunlight an hour that more people can use it, instead of early in the morning before most people are awake.

Then there are farmers, who say that the animals find it hard to adjust. Cows, for example, are used to rising at dawn and being milked. Shortly after, their milk is picked up by a milk truck to be sold. This milk truck runs a strict schedule. When we move our clocks ahead, the cows are now rising an hour later due to the clocks being pushed ahead an hour, but the milk truck still needs to pick up the milk at the same time.

Recently, Western Australians have gotten so caught up in arguing about the upcoming vote that they seem to have forgotten what Daylight Saving Time is all about. Regardless of what the clocks say, the Earth continues its cycle of daylight and darkness, and people continue needing an average of eight hours of sleep a night. We continue using the system of time that our ancestors invented as a way to coordinate schedules and keep track of the passing moments. No matter what the clocks read, the sun will set earlier in winter and later in summer. It will still take the Earth 24 hours to rotate around the Sun. And no matter what the outcome of next week’s vote, Western Australians will continue to argue for and against the efficacy of Daylight Saving Time.

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