As millions of groggy Americans adjust from daylight saving time back to standard time, a change in the law might mean that they won’t need to fiddle with their clocks anymore twice a year.
DST has always been controversial ever since it was enacted into law a century ago. However, the new legislative challenges are not hitting DST itself but standard time instead. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) reintroduced a bill on Wednesday that seeks to make DST the year-round time. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) also put in a matching initiative in the House.
This comes after last year’s vote in the Florida legislature that sought to adopt daylight saving time the whole year, called the Sunshine Protection Act.
Two issues are in play here. One is the claimed negative health effects of sleep deprivation and general confusion while the other is whether the evening should be favored over the morning when distributing sunlight.
In 2016, a study discovered that switching back to standard time in the fall coincided with a spike in diagnoses of depression.
And in a European study in 2018, there was a “modest” increase in heart attacks after changing the time with a more pronounced effect during the springtime shift.Research also pointed to sleep disruptions, especially during spring.
Rubio and other advocates also say that year-round DST also promotes public safety. A report published in the Review of Economics and Statistics in 2015 said that the extra daylight in the evening after switching to DST resulted in a drop in crime while seeing no matching increase in crime during the darker mornings.
“[R]obbery rates didn’t increase in the morning, even though those hours were darker — apparently, criminals aren’t early risers,” wrote researchers Jennifer Doleac and Nicholas Sanders in a Brookings Institution article.
“Studies have shown many benefits of a year-round Daylight Saving Time, which is why Florida’s legislature overwhelmingly voted to make it permanent last year. Reflecting the will of the State of Florida, I’m proud to reintroduce this bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent nationally,” said Rubio in a statement.
Even California is following suit, having approved a similar proposition in November.
However, there is a drawback. With year-round DST, the dark and cold mornings of fall and winter would become even darker and colder which could, in turn, be more dangerous for kids walking to school or the bus stop.
Said Heidi May Wilson, spokeswoman for the National Parent Teacher Association, “National PTA is opposed to daylight saving time during the winter months because of the safety factor.”
Germany was the first country to implement DST during World War One with the US soon adopting it.
But controversy always hounded the move especially among farmers who valued early morning daylight in the summer.According to Michael Downing, an English professor at Tufts University, it became a cultural conflict between metropolitan and agrarian interests.
Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966 after decades of haphazard implementation of DST. However, some states still rejected DST even until this day. These include Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
One of the other criticisms against DST is that it saves energy. According to Matthew Kotchen, a Yale professor of economics who co-wrote a study on Indiana’s energy usage before and after adopting DST, there is no evidence that any significant energy savings were realized.
“There may be a lot of reasons why we want daylight saving time and why we don’t, but the only thing I can say for sure is that daylight saving time should not be part of the Energy Policy Act,” Kotchen said.
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