Editorial: Daylight Saving: Time and Time Again


Daylight Saving: Time and Time Again

Among the myriad annoying swirls of disaffection, rage, frustration and division in this country, the years-long massive popular and political debate over abolishing daylight saving, or abolishing standard, times—and then adopting either as standard—should be a mere minor tremor. But this particular time war, which was in fact first developed by the Germans in World War I (and abolished right after it) has been raging across the country, as well as across Europe and Great Britain, for nearly a decade, and it is not going to stop until a decision is made. And then, of course, as have been several cases in the past, that decision may not even hold.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 came into being to alleviate the independent and erratic time zones and daylight saving times across the country. The messy minutes conversely affected such schedules as those of the railroad trains. The act created nine standard time zones—Atlantic, Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific, Alaskan, Hawaii-Aleutian, Samoa, and Chamorro—for the United States and formalized the dates, although they have been known to occasionally slide around, in the months of March and November of daylight saving time. The railroads benefited, but the people grumbled. The U.S. territories and Arizona, but not the Navajo Nation, remained on permanent standard time, as they could by federal law, which, incredibly, permits states to opt out of daylight saving but does not permit states to observe permanent daylight saving. Then, in 1974, President Nixon enacted permanent daylight saving time in reaction to the oil crisis of the previous year. That lost support and did not last a full year.

Since that time, more than 30 states have introduced bills to end daylight saving time and to make it the permanent standard time year-round. The thoughts around the country are that daylight saving time would reduce pedestrian fatalities by 13 percent (to 171 per year), increase shopping opportunities and outdoor activities during the sun-filled evening hours, make people cheerier and more productive, deter robberies, ward off fatal car crashes and even, perhaps, reduce energy consumption. On the other hand, it has been thought to also reduce sleep time: One awakens easily with the bright mornings of standard time and its dark nights enhance the production of melatonin. When nights are too light, sleep deprivation follows, bringing with it health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Daylight saving time also challenges the body’s circadian rhythm—its natural clock that is aligned with the progression of the sun—which helps control metabolism, insulin production, blood pressure and hormones. Daylight saving time, it turns out, throws our bodies out of whack and adds to our medical bills.

Interestingly, permanent standard time has been found to be more healthy, safe and beneficial for all of us than permanent daylight saving time. No one seems to have heard this. Last year, in March, the U.S. Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which was introduced by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and has garnered genuine bipartisan support. The bill permits states to observe permanent daylight saving time and, if approved by the House and signed by the President, it would take effect in November 2023, thus voiding the activity that most Americans have deemed obsolete and superfluous—that of exuberantly springing forward and sadly falling back.

March your clocks forward this weekend.

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