For those of you with an early morning commute, you’re probably happy that we just pushed the clocks back an hour to give you a little more daylight during the morning hours. However, few people enjoy the fact that it’s now dark outside by 5 p.m. You may have your own personal reasons for enjoying darkness at an earlier hour in the evening, but research is clear that there’s one group of people who like that it gets darker sooner – criminals.
According to a recent study, crime spikes when it gets darker out earlier. Study authors Jennifer Doleac and Nicholas Sanders examined crime rates based around daylight savings time. They found that “when Daylight Savings Time begins in the spring, robbery rates for the entire day fall an average of 7 percent, with a much larger 27 percent drop during the evening hour that gained some extra sunlight.”
When there’s less sunlight at night, the findings are reversed.
“Most street crime occurs in the evening around common commuting hours of 5 to 8 PM,” the authors write, “and more ambient light during typical high-crime hours makes it easier for victims and passers-by to see potential threats and later identify wrongdoers.”
Crime and Daylight Savings Time
Interestingly, in the spring, the drop in crime in the evening hours isn’t offset by a rise in crime during the darker morning hours. According to researcher, criminals simply aren’t morning people. Researchers found that moving the clocks forward in the spring translated to an overall drop in robberies and rapes.
In addition to the crime itself, each crime carries a social cost. Previous estimates suggest that the social cost of a single robbery is roughly $42,000, while the social cost of a rape is about $240,000. According to the calculations, when we moved the “spring forward” date ahead three weeks in 2007, we saved the country nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in social costs, according to Doleac and Sanders. They add that the elimination of daylight savings time could save us even more.
“Assuming a linear effect in other months, the implied social savings from a permanent, year-long change in ambient light would be almost 20 times higher,” they conclude. They said that further studies would be necessary, but they would not be surprised if eliminating daylight savings time would save us more a than a billion dollars in social costs.
Aside from potentially reducing crime, previous research suggests society would benefit in a number of other ways from the elimination of the fall-back, spring-forward system. Daylights savings time has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, car accidents and work injuries. Furthermore, another study found that people burn an average of 10 percent more calories when there is more daylight in the evenings. Don’t be surprised if the legislators hear arguments for dropping Daylight Savings Time altogether in the not-so-distant future.