Thursday, March 11, 2021

What time do you want it to be? -- March 11, 2021 column


Daylight saving time is back.

We “spring forward” and turn our clocks ahead one hour at 2 a.m. Sunday, losing an hour of sleep.

And at 2 a.m. on Nov. 7 we will “fall back,” set back the clocks and supposedly reclaim that lost hour. Or will we?

States can opt out of daylight saving time, but it would require an act of Congress to make daylight saving permanent. Now, a bipartisan group of senators wants to #locktheclock and do just that.

“The call to end the antiquated practice of clock changing is gaining momentum throughout the nation,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., chief sponsor of the so-called Sunshine Protection Act, said Tuesday in a statement.

It’s no secret people hate changing their clocks. Since 2015, at least 350 bills or resolutions have been introduced in virtually every state legislature to make permanent either standard time or daylight saving time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which said the biannual changing of the clocks raises “vexing and multifaceted state policy questions.”

Since the Florida legislature passed a law in 2018 for permanent daylight saving time, 15 other states have also passed laws, resolutions or voter initiatives backing permanent daylight saving. They are: Arkansas, Alabama, California, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

In Virginia, a bill to study the effects of daylight saving time died in committee last month, so there will be no change at least until next year’s session.

Seven in 10 Americans want to stop changing their clocks twice a year, an AP-NORC poll found in 2019. It’s disruptive of sleep, difficult for one’s biological rhythms to adjust to and makes life less safe, critics contend.

Among those who want to stop changing the time, 40% favored year-round standard time and 31% year-round daylight saving time, the poll reported.

Joining Rubio in reintroducing the Sunshine measure Tuesday were Sens. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma; Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, Rick Scott, R-Florida; and Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts.

Some senators want you to believe they are giving you an extra hour of sunshine. A summary of the bill, however, helpfully explains it does not change the amount of hours of sunlight.

Nor does the bill alter or change time zones or mandate the states and territories that do not observe daylight saving time do so. Hawaii, most of Arizona and the major U.S. territories do not change their clocks.

Benjamin Franklin floated the idea of daylight saving time in a humorous article in 1784. The United States first adopted daylight time during World War I, but it was unpopular. Congress ended it after the war. 

President Franklin Roosevelt restarted “War Time” in 1942 during World War II. When War Time ended in 1945, some states chose to start daylight saving in the summer.

Senators may want to be careful what they wish for. An emergency daylight saving time order in January 1974 during the OPEC oil crisis was supposed to last a year. It proved so unpopular when kids had to wait for the school bus in the dark of night, the edict was lifted.

Farmers, contrary to popular belief, hate daylight saving time, which upsets their schedules. They would rather let the sun and seasons dictate their work.

The Transportation Department, which oversees daylight saving time, says on its website daylight saving time can cut electricity use, save lives, prevent traffic injuries and reduce crime. Some studies dispute these findings.

Changing clocks is hard on people physically, with more people suffering heart attacks and strokes on days just after the spring time change, studies show. Heart attacks decline when we fall back.

Save Standard Time, a nonpartisan group, agrees we should stop changing our clocks twice a year but argues we go with permanent standard time. It blames “corporate lobbyists for special interests like Big Oil, Big Golf and Big Candy” for wanting to extend daylight time “and make its false clock permanent.”

Several organizations representing educators and sleep researchers as well as religious and medical groups have endorsed permanent standard time.

So, what time do you want it to be?

I don’t mind changing a few clocks twice a year, so the current system is OK with me. If we had to stick with just one year round, though, I’d go with standard time. Daylight saving is great in the spring and summer, but winter mornings are already dark enough.

Under permanent daylight time, sunrise in Virginia on Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice, wouldn’t come until about 8:20 a.m. No thanks.

©2021 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.


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