Daylight Saving Time: A Legal Timeline

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on March 08, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Daylight Saving Time is about to begin -- that time of year when most people in the country lose an hour of sleep in exchange for more light in the evenings. It's more than just a custom; Daylight Saving is the law in places where it's observed.

The practice of "springing forward" in March and "falling back" in November is observed in most states. The two exceptions are Arizona and Hawaii, according to National Geographic News.

But it wasn't always like this. In fact, Daylight Saving Time is officially less than a century old. Let's turn back the clock and see how it became law:

  • 1918: During the first World War, Congress established official time zones and set up standard time within each zone. In an effort to save energy, the new law also mandated Daylight Saving by pushing clocks forward one hour for a period of seven months. That provision was so unpopular that it was eventually repealed.

  • 1942: During World War II, Daylight Saving was again reinstated as part of the war effort. But instead of pushing clocks forward for just a few months of the year, the practice stayed in place year-round until September 1945.

  • 1966: Rather than force states to abide by Daylight Saving Time, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act. That law standardized the start and end days of Daylight Saving Time, but allowed states to choose whether to comply.

  • 2005: The time limits for Daylight Saving have changed over the years. At different points, it lasted for seven months, eight months, and even 10 months. But the most recent decision comes from the Energy Policy Act of 2005. In it, Congress set up what we now observe as Daylight Saving Time -- the clocks move forward on the second Sunday of March, and fall back on the first Sunday of November. Those provisions went into effect in 2007.

  • Today: More and more states have joined in on Daylight Saving Time over the years so that the act of changing the clocks happens almost everywhere. State laws mandate the change to ensure consistency and predictability for citizens. So before going to bed Saturday night, remember to set your clock an hour forward. Your reward will be an extra hour of sunlight. And, in most states, it's the law.

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