By Grace-Marie Turner
In the interest of playing God with time and saving Americans from the inconvenience of resetting their (mostly self-setting) clocks twice a year, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill on March 15 to make daylight saving time permanent.
The legislation is now in the hands of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Winter is a particular problem for some parts of the country when days are shorter.
“The sun rose at 8:27 AM on January 7, 1974,” The Washingtonian reported. “Children in the Washington area had left for school in the dark that morning, thanks to a new national experiment during a wrenching energy crisis.”
The early-morning darkness “quickly proved dangerous for children: A 6-year-old Alexandria girl was struck by a car on her way to Polk Elementary School on January 7; the accident broke her leg. Two Prince George’s County students were hurt in February. In the weeks after the change, eight Florida kids were killed in traffic accidents.”
Some of the deaths may not have been directly attributable to the time change, but politicians will nonetheless be blamed. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) should have studied his own state’s history before championing the bill.
Nearly 80 percent of Americans approved of permanent daylight saving time in December 1973, but support plummeted to 42 percent after three months of dark mornings.
Standard vs. Daylight Saving Time
Changing the clocks twice a year interrupts sleep schedules and perhaps that is why making standard or daylight saving time permanent may have some appeal.
But the Senate has it wrong. Standard time, not daylight saving time, is what aligns with human circadian biology, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
Studies show disrupting that rhythm has been associated with increased risks of obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and depression. The AASM supports year-round standard time and says 20 medical organizations stand behind that position.
“We call on the House to take more time to assess the potential ramifications of establishing permanent daylight-saving time before making such an important decision that will affect all Americans,” states the AASM.
Later Sunrise ≠ Longer Daylight
George Mason University economist Charles Blahous did a little research and observes that permanent daylight-saving time would mean sunrise in some parts of the year could occur as late as 9:06 in Indianapolis, 9:01 in Detroit, 8:51 in Salt Lake City, and 8:49 in Omaha.
In a response post, fiscal and budget expert Jonathan Bydlak makes this sage observation: “I don’t understand why they can’t just pass a law that mandates longer daylight instead. That way it wouldn’t get too dark in the evenings, and the sun also would come up earlier in the mornings. Washington is so out of touch with the wishes of the people.”
After a flood of op-eds and columns the days following the Senate vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that advancing the Senate bill in the House is not a priority right now. Good move.
Let’s put this bad idea back to sleep.