The best source for reliable, recent, and aggregate statistics about time use for the US comes in the form of the American Time Use Survey. This data source, starting in 2003 and for every year thereafter, tallies the amount of time Americans spend in various activities, including travel by ten different purposes. Over the past decade, the amount of time spent in travel has declined six minutes: from 74.4 minutes to 68.4 minutes per day.
David Levinson, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota, has studied the effects of daylight saving time from a traffic safety standpoint, finding the shift makes driving no more dangerous than at any other time. But he also views DST through sociological and economic lenses.
Energy savings used to be the primary reason, he said, with the logic that if it stayed sunlit later, people wouldn’t turn on their lights.
“My own view is that people should get up earlier,” Levinson added, not unreasonably.
Levinson concurred with the economic value of DST, noting that merchants believe that the longer it remains daylight, the more likely people will leave their homes to shop.
“The question is: How much benefit can there be? People are going to buy only as many groceries as they’re going to buy. How much is new business entirely because it’s still daylight?”
That may be impossible to determine, partly because at this time of year the days are getting longer in addition to shifting an hour. Where the Twin Cities have just under eight hours of daylight on Dec. 21, we’ll have a little more than 12 hours on March 21 and a whopping 15 ½ on June 21.
Today, about 70 countries use daylight saving time to some extent. And, like it or not, the eastern time zone — whether on DST or EST — makes everyone jump.
Central time zone residents are used to starting their days earlier if they’re dealing with the East Coast.