Chaos of Saving Time

June 1st, 2006
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v4-6-My VoiceOn May 7, Honduras began a Daylight Savings Time (DST) experiment that will last until September 3. This is the second time Honduras has attempted DST transition. In 1994 Honduras experimented with the system, but abandoned it that same year. When on May 5 I’ve heard of the measure two things came to my mind: joke or insanity. The definition of insanity is: ‘do something over and over again and expect different results.’

In the region only Cuba, Guatemala, Bahamas and Mexico observe DST. Guatemala, beginning this year, is the only other Centro American country to implement DST. The dates of implementation do not coincide with Honduras and it has five, not four months of DST.

DST was fist introduced in Germany in 1916 and in 1918 US made DST official. Today, around 70 countries around the world observe DST, but it is generally accepted the tropical climates generally do not vary enough to justify DST. Honduras becomes the southernmost country to attempt DST change. Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands do not implement DST as the variance of daylight hours is not significant enough to justify the change.

Honduran government presented several reasons for introduction of DST: energy conservation, reduction of traffic accidents and crime.

A US Department of Transportation study found approximately 1% savings in energy costs is DST is used. In 1974 US attributed a saving of around 10,000 barrels of oil a day to the measure. For a country like Honduras, with 2.5% of the US population, this would translate to 250 barrels, or 12,500 liters a day. This adds-up to around 1.5 million liters over the course of four months. The cost to the Honduran consumer is around $5.25 million, or about 75 cents per person.

In a tropical country of Honduras, the theoretical savings in energy costs from not using electrical lighting are offset by the cost incurred by cooling costs. People coming back from work early now need to pay for the expense of cooling their homes with fans, or air conditioning.

Unlike in the US, or industrial countries, much crime in Central America takes place during daylight hours. As the night approaches and people go back to their homes, street and violent crime actually goes down. The introduction of DST in Honduras could actually increase crime.

The reduction in traffic accidents is likely offset in the first two days of applying the laws where the sleepy drivers, after losing one hour of sleep, on the early hours of the morning cause extra traffic accidents. In the US, when one hour of sleep is lost, there was an increase in the number of traffic accidents.
The disruption in sleep patterns correlates with lost productivity as sleep-deprived workers adjust to the schedule change. Much effort is spent reminding everyone twice a year of the change, and thousands are inconvenienced by showing up at the wrong time when they forget about the change.

Honduras is too small, too poor, too economically codependent of a country to introduce DST by itself without coordinating it with its Central American neighbors. International transportation companies have to reconfigure and reprint their schedules. Central American banks and regional institutions that used to have an eight hour work day to conduct their business, now only have six.

Vast majority of Hondurans live off agricultural activity and thought the world DST is especially unpopular amongst people working in agriculture. As they rise with the sun regardless of the time, Honduran agriculture workers are placed out of synchronization with the rest of the community and have less time to actually conduct their ‘town business’ after tending to their fields.

For me the fact and manner how the DST was passed was just as interesting as its consequences. Like the US government is addicted to oil, Honduran governments is addicted to passing laws, regulations, whether or not they make any sense or even be enforced. Introduction of DST is yet another example of government paternalism, deciding that people themselves can’t be responsible enough to wake up earlier, or later depending on their needs and likes. [/private]

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