Growing up in Illinois and also living in Indiana for seven years as a young adult I became familiar with the annual controversy surrounding Indiana's historical refusal to adopt Daylight Savings Time. In 2005 the state legislature finally required all counties in the state to observe DST when it was agreed that it was ridiculous to have three different time rules in place in one state. There were (and still are) 12 counties on Central Time (border counties that are part of the Louisville and Chicago metro areas, both of which are Central), a bunch of counties on Eastern time without observing DST, and the remainder of counties on Eastern time with DST. It was really stupid. Equally stupid were many of the reactions to the change. People made dire predictions about the consequences and of course when the appointed day arrived in 2006 everyone just changed their clocks and instantly forgot about it in favor of, you know, going about their day.

Changing to Daylight Savings requires very little. Imagine the clustercuss it would create if we had to make a major change like, say, switching the side of the road on which we drive. Wouldn't that be crazy?

Sweden did it. In 1967. So we can just ask them.

Brief background. In 1960 Sweden realized that there were a number of economic disadvantages with being the only continental European country with shared land borders that drove on the left. Norway and Finland, neighbors with which it shares borders, drove on the right. Furthermore since cars in Sweden were left hand drive, passing on two lane roads from the left lane was basically an act of blind faith and courage, an example of whatever "Hold my beer" is in Swedish. Most traffic systems observe the "head in the middle" rule so the driver has the best view of the oncoming traffic. That's why the left-lane driving British have their steering wheels on the right hand side and…well, almost the whole rest of the world has the opposite. I've driven without the Head-Middle rule in the US Virgin Islands, where cars have American left-hand drive but British left-lane driving, and beyond the simple unfamiliarity I can attest that it is not a great way to navigate narrow, winding roads.

In 1962 Sweden had a referendum in which switching to right-lane driving went down in flames, with nearly 90% of the public opposed. People dislike change and wildly underestimate their ability to get accustomed to something like this so public reluctance was not surprising. In a moment of Good Government 101, though, the Swedish legislature passed a law anyway, doing the right thing and disregarding the fact that it angered voters in the short run. They were also wise enough to legislate a long period of time – two full years – to prepare Swedes and the nation's physical infrastructure for the change. The date chosen was September 3, 1967 for Högertrafikomläggningen ("right hand traffic diversion"). That doesn't exactly lend itself to marketing so it was publicized as Dagen H ("H Day") which sounds much better and also had a goddamn great logo:


Overnight on Sept. 2, a Saturday evening, all road traffic in the nation was halted around 4:30 AM and required to resume in the right lane at 5:00. Big cities had longer shutdowns while workers hurriedly changed signage and repainted intersections, yet even Stockholm finished its changes in less than eight hours. For the most part, a few images of confusion aside, Swedes appear to have handled it without much consternation. Accidents actually went down, albeit briefly before returning to normal levels as more and more drivers who had avoided the roads out of fear resumed their normal driving habits.

As part of publicizing the change the government gave out thousands of pairs of gloves with a red left and green right to remind drivers of the correct traffic pattern, but it turned out that people didn't need all that much reminding. Once the change was made drivers appear to have taken to it quickly, no doubt aided by the two years of reminders and preparation. I guess we're more adaptable than we expect. Well, at least the Swedish are. I'm not sure Americans could handle something like this. In fact looking at the way we handle any kind of social, economic, or political change I'm confident that we couldn't. Then again we might surprise ourselves.

But probably not.

44 thoughts on “NPF: SWITCHEROO”

  • Gotta disagree with you on Indiana and DST. What are the advantages of DST? I think all the energy/economic arguments have been discredited. Your computer can tell you what time it is in NYC, and your phone tells you what time it is when you change time zones.
    The nicest thing about living in Indiana used to be the gentle, gradual cycle of sunrise and sunsets, until Mitch decided that bidness/jahb creators require IN to be on east coast time, and so in keeping with the indiana tradition of being 40 years behind the times on everything, we switched.


  • Daylight Saving Time, no S!
    I grew up in AZ without it, 20+ years later it still fucks with my head for a few weeks after the switch.

  • Personal anecdote, the thing that had me the most freaked out over going from LHD to RHD wasn't staying on the correct side—I'm also one of those tragics who easily confuses left from right—of the road.
    It was the idea of driving a manual and they've changed the pedals on me!!
    I knew I could easily handle if the gears were reversed, but not the pedals. The idea of going for the clutch and finding the gas instead…

    What a relief the moment I found there was no change. :)

    Can you imagine the Armageddon level of pants shitting that will come with when the US finally gets over itself and goes metric.
    Emotionally I get the resistance. I get how in a psychological way it defines America as America. Logically, OFFS!! Get over it and get on with it!! Metric is so much freaking easier to work with. None of this 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32…inch bullshit! If you really need to go past 0.25 of something switch unit and you're back to whole numbers again.

    Except for higher range temperatures. Got to admit that a temp of 127 sounds far more impressive than 53. And having a fever of 103 more frightening than 38. But freezing being at 32??? Is far less intuitive than 0—I'm well aware that they based of different liquids—however the point stands.

  • @X

    We have been going metric for decades in the US, but it is a soft conversion. Anyone who works on their car for last 30 years has gradually acquired a feel for metric wrench sizes as foreign cars have become more common and domestic models have foreign sourced sub-assemblies and accessories as US based auto companies have acquired interests in overseas concerns.

    When the last 9/16 inch wrench is retired I earnestly believe that there will be no sh!tty britches in the house…


  • Having lived in Indiana, you should know that "we're talking about Indiana". talk about backward and insular. You always know you're in a new state when you cross or border and that's generally a good thing. Of course, picking a time zone will be difficult for the whole state–it's an insular place filled with insular subplaces. I was never so happy to leave a place, except when I left Georgia–another terminally backward place despite the phony glow of "progress" from feudal Atlanta.

  • Very briefly during the Carter administration, the USA experimented with going metric. I was in elementary school then, and we practiced daily by filling out worksheets about metrics and metric conversion. The American public appeard to flip out over it, and it was mostly abandoned. About the only holdover to that in people's day-to-day lives is that bottles of soda are available in 2-litre (not gallon) sizes. If you're involved in the sciences, you'll use metrics (an example from high school physics class: acceleration is 9.80 metres/second squared).

    I lived in England as an adult for several years for work, and I've travelled to several European countries for business, and I find the metric system to be very easy to figure things out in, as opposed to the Imperial system: how many tablespoons in a quarter-cup? How many cups in a quart? It's easy to figure out how many millilitres in a litre.

  • For the record, the US uses the Customary System (not the Imperial) of units for weights and measures. Though similar, there are some significant differences.

    Since 1988 the US has (through legislation) stated that the preferred system for manufacturing and commerce is the Metric System.


  • Indiana is a strange state. Generally much more conservative than the rest of the Midwest. It's no surprise that the second big period of KKK activity (1920s) was very big in Indiana.

    Once you get out of Indianapolis or Bloomington, it's the kind of red state that has Texans scratching their heads and exclaiming:

    "Dayum! Y'all sure are right wing!"

  • The transition from standard to DST and back is always a PITA, an gets worse as I age.
    If memory serves, the main opponent of metrification was the construction industry. and the last 9/16th" wrench will enjoy a prolonged use as a "kinda'" 14mm. Celcius is not metric, just happens to be used by Countries that went metric, a new scale with 0° at freezing and 200° for boiling would be easier to transition to for most, and easily converted when celcius was required.

  • Despite being factually and psychologically correct, this article suffers from the single greatest flaw that will render it incomprehensible to conservative readers (well, other than being logical and evidence based): It compares 'Merica to Sweden.

    I can't believe you played the Sweden card. No one puts up with that. We've developed a whole Arsenal of Anti-Sweden Reflexes as an antidote. The two greatest ASRs, of course, are knowing nothing about Sweden and refusing to learn.

    In Merican political discourse the number one rule is to only compare Merica with cultures that are more dysfunctional than we are, and to never ever use an example of a culture that does things better than us. Then you can rightfully claim that Merica is the bestest ever. Ignorance is Strength. War is Peace.

  • In 1967, of course, Sweden had an urbane population, many (most?) of whom had traveled to and within "right-side" countries, so it wasn't a complete shock to their senses. The changes in signage really made a difference; we all use them and their placement as much subconsciously as consciously.

    The running joke in Britain after the Swedes accomplished the switch with so little problem was that the Brits should do it, but allow everyone to use whichever side of the road they liked for a period of a couple of weeks or so, to give each person a bit of time to get used to the new system. :-)

  • Climate change, time change. No wonder.

    Interesting about Sweden. All that infrastructure nonsense. Rings a bell.

  • We live in Ohio, about 6 mi. (10 km.) from Indiana. College Corner straddles the border so it was confusing. I remember some shops taping notes on the clock "Ohio Time". The state line is the center line of the High School basketball court.
    Our son is in Grad. school in Iceland which stays on GMT (UT) year 'round. The "natural" time zone would be 1 1/2 hrs. behind, but that close to the Arctic Circle I guess clock time is fairly arbitrary anyway.

    I think Nate has a good point about American attitudes toward how other countries deal with problems, which bodes ill for Bernie. Therefore, someone needs to relabel that damn great logo 7/28/2016 for Hillary.
    (I know it's NPF, sorry)

  • In fact looking at the way we handle any kind of social, economic, or political change I'm confident that we couldn't. Then again we might surprise ourselves.

    But probably not.

    Notice the way he changed lanes, there? Three times? Ed on any topic can turn up gems.

  • My take, if this same thing about changing driving patterns happened in the US?

    73% of the people would have little or no problem, and happily comply.

    27% would resent it to their dying day, because it's SocialiFasciCommuniHeatheMusliAthei-ism, and NOT 'MURKIN!!!

    And a part of that 27% would be happy to drive on the new "wrong" side of the road, hoping to take out enough Libtards before they hit a semi head-on, and are immediately sucked-up to Heaven – no clothes, AND no wounds!
    And if there are any wounds, Jesus will heal them, because these loons are the favorites of Him and his Father!

    I'd like to think I'm wrong.
    But if I were you, I wouldn't bet against my prediction!

  • Our younger son gets squirrely about a week before and a week after the time change. It's puzzling because he doesn't seem to be consciously aware of it.

    I've gotten more familiar with IS since I've been helping my husband in his baking business. Almost all professional formulas are in kilos/grams, and experience has taught me "two kilos flour fit in this size bin, 130 grams sugar in that". Now when I have to deal with ounces and cups it seems clunky and awkward. Maybe teaching elementary school kids to bake would be a good way to introduce them to IS? Except for the barking moonbat parents who would insist that teaching Johnny to make cupcakes will turn him queer.

  • Live long enough in other countries with liters and kilometers and backward dates and it's difficult to adjust back to our system, and I still get it wrong with the day and month placement on occasion. That could be situational dyslexia, however.
    Another aside, I've translated a couple of cookbooks from metric to the Customary System as well as the Imperial and will forgo the mind twists involved, although there are charts to guide one. Who thought this crap up, anyway?

  • Sorry to be that guy, but Louisville is actually on Eastern time. I think the odd counties in SW Indiana are just far enough away that they're not really part of the metro area here.

  • If you look at a map, Indiana and Michigan should totally be on Central time. It's kinda cute that they think they have more in common with New York than Chicago, when it's pretty clearly the other way around.

    Indiana has long been a finger of the South encroaching into the Midwest. It's sad to see that the finger has been lengthening on late to include big chunks of Michigan.

  • "That's why the left-lane driving British have their steering wheels on the right hand side and…well, almost the whole rest of the world has the opposite."

    It's more than you'd think. Between former British Empire and Japan, close to a third of the world's population lives in drive-on-left countries. (Notably, India and the rest of the subcontinent all drive on the left, and that's like 1½ billion right there.) Most of them border the Indian Ocean, though, so we tend to forget they're there…

  • The best thing about working in Indiana was wiping the petroleum and coke dust off yourself and see it the rear view mirror heading back to Illinois.

    OK, Indiana did have Phil Schmidt's, I'll give them that. Frog legs and shrimps.

  • Very early in the 20th century many American cars were built with right hand steering. I was never serious about doing research on this however.

    One would think that Aussies would be cantankerous enough to switch.

  • I have a postal jeep in my driveway that I keep meaning to get going, but one of the things holding me back (other than the engine and the blown lights and bad tires and the fact that I have a perfectly new vehicle as well) is the fear of turning left at an intersection. When I buy some acreage somewhere, it'll be my vehicle of choice. But for commuting to work? No thanks.

    Living in AZ and avoiding DST is no big deal. I can see how it would help further North, but here it's not going to really help much.

    But the dates thing? I found it much easier to keep notes in order when I started with the day of the month first. It just makes sense. Really can't understand why we do it the way we do here.

    Lastly, I work a mile from the start or the end of this stretch. Hear they're going to convert it to miles soon, which is a pity. Enjoyed the novelty of kilometers when I went to the Target near Irvington Road. Tucson to Nogales (Walnuts) is about 100km. A lovely drive.

  • My uncle from Sweden told me the story of the switch over little differently: Well we weren't sure it would really work so we decided to have the just the trucks try it first to see how it goes…

  • F: Exactly. I grew up in Wisconsin (Central), spent a decent amount of time visiting family in Cincinnati (Eastern), went to college in Minnesota (Central), then moved to Ann Arbor, MI at the age of 22 and was there for 3 years. It was cool to have sunset at 10pm, but even on the Eastern side of Michigan, the Time Zone felt so wrong.

    In the US, we spend about 126 days in Standard Time, which means we're in DST for around 238 days. Near the end of DST, I can really feel it too. I try to take the last week of October as vacation so I can avoid coming in to work late every day because I'm waking up an hour earlier than I should be – if that makes sense.

    I have heard that there are higher instances of strokes and heart attacks around the time change every year. It's that extra bit of stress that puts some people over the edge, it seems.

  • Schmitt trigger says:

    Popular Mechanics, on international editions, used to publish in both Customary and Metric units in a way that was both utterly confusing and infuriating. For instance:

    "The new Ford Mustang has a new 351 CID (5.7513 liters) engine, which produces 297 HP (218.443 kw) and 300 ft-lb (406.745 newton-meter) of torque, while still providing a very respectable 19 MPG (10.631 kilometers per liter). "

  • That really is a great logo.

    Also, there's an actual international standard for dates(ISO 8601: YYYY-MM-DD). It's just that no one uses it except programmers.

  • Actually, the US military went over to the YYYY-MM-DD format a while back. Made me reminisce about the olden days, when they finally went to standard 8-1/2 x 11 paper, after using 8 x 10 for many years (at added cost for the odd size).

  • The problem with one state or area unilaterally bucking the trend with DST is that unless the coastal states where most of the population/financial/etc. centers are decide to abandon it, nobody else is either. So you get your precious hour of sleep back one day a year but add an extra layer of mental math any time you have to call someone back east, figure out when your favorite TV show broadcast at "10pm Eastern" comes on in your area, etc. I mean this is a calculation I do pretty much every day, meaning that I would have to continue remembering some arbitrary date just so I know what the rest of the world is doing, and remember to add/subtract an hour depending on the year. I'd rather just change my clocks, thanks.

  • Been living in Indiana all my life. I'm 33, I remember the non-DST days. The switch messed with me for a few weeks then I got used to it. The internet reminders are still nice though.

    Pence is still trying to figure out what decade we're living in and more people in my state elect idiots like that than more reasonable candidates. I think we have bigger problems to figure out than DST right now.

    Good post though. :)

  • The one good political decision Arizona ever made was getting rid of DST. I can't believe there are still people who argue in favor of it. "Waaah, it gets dark too early on standard time! Waaah, I have to wake up in the dark on DST!" Guess what, the Earth's axis is tilted. Seasons happen. Nighttime gets longer in the winter. You're gonna have to live some of your life in the dark.

    You can avoid it if you really want to. Have you been to Quito, Ecuador? It's actually a pretty nice city, and it's just about on the equator, so seasons don't vary too much, and sunrise to sunset is just about 12 hours all year, but it's high in the mountains, so it doesn't feel super tropical and hot. Move there if seasons bother you so much.

    It's a goddam nightmare for any kind of record-keeping or IT. You have an hour that doesn't exist every spring, and an hour that happens twice every fall. That's why every computer system or database worth a shit actually runs on GMT and has a sometimes surprisingly complicated overly to convert dates and times to whatever local nonsense you need. I resent every second of my life that's been wasted dealing with this bullshit.

  • The Indiana problem just illustrates why DST is nonsense. Southeastern Indiana is suburb of Louisville, which is on Eastern Time, so naturally they want to sync up. Similarly, northwestern Indiana is a suburb of Chicago, so naturally they want to be on Central. The middle of the state is a bunch of farmers, who don't much care whether they're on Eastern or Central but think DST is a bunch of horseshit because the cows and the chickens wake up when the sun comes up, and DST just gets you out of sync with your animals.

    Even Arizona isn't perfect because the parts of the Navajo Nation that are in Arizona observe DST, just so they can stay synced up with the rest of the Nation located in UT, NM, and CO. Good God, the fact that I once had to know all this shit, and it's still occupying mental real estate that could be used for something useful, just pisses me off.

  • Wait, I thought you were in, like, your late 30s? You think Louisville is on Central Time? We switched to Eastern in the early 1960s.

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