Officials urge caution as Daylight Savings begins
Polk County Enterprise, March 2007
LIVINGSTON – With Daylight Savings Time set to start three weeks early this year, local officials have a few precautions for Polk Countians to follow when springing forward.
Clocks will move forward March 11 – instead of mid-April – which will mean some area school children will be at the bus stop before dawn until sunrise catches up with the clocks.
Congress passed a law two years ago moving Daylight Saving Time from the first Sunday in April to March 11. Lawmakers said the change was made because it is thought more daylight in the early-evening hours will help save energy.
During the first week of the time change Livingston and many other school districts will be on spring break.
When classes resume March 19, local law enforcement agencies will have increased patrols in school zones and other areas that get a lot of school-related traffic to help heighten safety.
Chief Deputy Byron Lyons said the Polk County Sheriff’s Department has already been discussing ways to maximize patrols around school campuses and bus stops.
Deputies and Livingston Police Department officers already have stepped up enforcement of speed limits in school zones, but they plan to target drivers illegally passing school buses as well.
“We’re going to make sure that drivers heed those flashing lights and slow down in the school zones,” Livingston Police Chief Dennis Clifton said.
Some bus riders in outlying areas are already at the roadside before sunup now, Lyons said. When the time changes, many more will be waiting for a ride to school in the dark.
Parents should take some steps to enhance safety by adding reflective material to their child’s backpack or clothing, Lyons said. Students will also be safer near streets if they’re wearing light-colored clothing that is easier to spot in low light.
This is a good time to review safety rules with your children, Lyons added. By staying alert and aware of their surroundings students can prevent an unfortunate incident on the way to school.
“Drivers are starting to notice that we’re monitoring the school zones closely,” Lyons said.
The number of tickets issued for school zone violations has dropped off a little, but some drivers are still ignoring the signs.
Issuing tickets – with an additional penalty for violating the school zone – is the only sure way officers have to get drivers’ attention, officials with both agencies said.
Don’t fertilize yet
County agent Mark Currie cautions homeowners not to be too eager to jump-start your lawn just because they will soon have some daylight after a day at the office.
Nighttime temperatures are still too cool for most grasses to flourish, Currie said.
“We need the temperature to stay above 65 for several days in a row first,” Currie said.
Applying fertilizer now will encourage the cooler weather weeds to thrive, he added.
“Everybody is eager to get this extra hour of sun now, but when we get to the middle of summer and it doesn’t get dark until nearly 9 o’clock we’ll be ready to change back,” Currie said.
The earlier shift may temporarily confuse older computers and electronic devices, technology experts say.
Cell phones shouldn’t have any trouble since they get time signals from wireless networks.
Newer computers that run Microsoft Vista or XP with Service Pack 2, or a Mac OS X system will adjust to the early switch to daylight savings time just fine, national media outlets report.
If you have an older computer, you can check for a patch at Microsoft.com or just change the clock yourself Sunday morning and unswitch when it automatically springs forward April 11.
For other portable electronic devices, such as BlackBerry or Palm, check the appropriate Web site to see if you need an update for your particular model.
If you depend on an electronic calendar such as the one available in Outlook, even Microsoft is advising users to call and confirm appointments during the three weeks that historically would still be standard time.
Microsoft has a patch available to update available for download on its Web site support.microsoft.com/ kb/931836
Energy conservation has often been used to justify Daylight Savings Time. The idea is that artificially delaying sunrise and sunset tends to increase energy consumption in the morning and reduce it in the evening. The idea was promoted by early American inventor Benjamin Franklin, although his idea didn’t include resetting every clock in the country.
In theory, the evening reduction outweighs the morning increase. United States Department of Transportation (DOT) studies concluded in 1975 that DST would probably reduce the country's electricity usage by 1 percent during March and April.
President Jimmy Carter ordered an off-schedule shift to Daylight Savings Time then to reduce energy usage during the Arab oil embargo.
A study after Mexico reintroduced DST in 1996 estimated national savings of 0.7 percent in national electric consumption and reduction of peak load by 500 MW.
An energy argument for observing DST in summer rather than winter is most people wake up after the summer sun rises regardless of whether DST is in effect, so DST during summer has less need for morning electrical lighting.