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Daylight Savings Time: Debating The Costs Of Springing Forward

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Daylight saving time in most of the United States starts Sunday, March 11 at 2 a.m.
Daylight saving time in most of the United States starts Sunday, March 11 at 2 a.m.

This weekend, most Americans will lose an hour of sleep as the nation shifts to daylight saving time, which starts Sunday morning at 2 a.m.

But it could be the most expensive hour of the year. One economist has estimated the cost of shifting that hour forward due to daylight saving time is $1.7 billion dollars a year. That represents just under $3 per American in lost productivity due to clock resetting.

Originally, the time-shifting policy was designed to help save with energy costs and help Americans maximize sunlight hours back when electricity costs were relatively far higher. But today, some economists say the policy is not really helping all that much.

Two states--Arizona and Hawaii--along with American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands don’t officially observe the time change each year.

One study showed that the time shift did not reduce energy consumption, so much as displace where and when it was being used. For example, fewer people may need to turn their lights on in the morning when they wake up due to an earlier sunrise, but more people are using air conditioners later in the day as it gets warmer, according to research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2008.

Other studies and reports point to the various problems with losing an hour: There are slightly more traffic accidents on the Monday after the spring forward; people struggle with sleeping schedules; and some television ratings go down.

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