Daylight saving time: Americans want to stop changing the clock, but can’t agree on how
State legislatures, sleep scientists and the public seem to agree that the annual rite of passage forward and backward must go. But the nation has not found consensus on what should replace it.
Nineteen states have passed laws or resolutions in the past five years to make daylight saving time permanent if Congress — and, in some cases, other states — allow the change. Two states, Arizona and Hawaii, have long followed permanent standard time, which the law already allows.
In standard time, noon occurs when the sun hangs highest in the sky. Daylight saving time moves the clock forward, moving sunset one hour later. Currently, most of the United States operates on daylight saving time between March and November and standard time for the rest of the year. The nation will say goodbye to Daylight Savings Time on Sunday, at least for now.
Scientists view standard time as the natural environment for the planet and the human body. Most sleep experts prefer it over daylight savings for health reasons.
“What standard time does is optimize our light in the morning,” said Beth Malow, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University. “And we really need light in the morning to wake us up, to get us going, to reset our whole internal clock with what’s going on in the world around us.”
Public opinion about competitive schedules has changed over the decades. However, two trends have emerged in recent years: people are tired of changing the clock, and most Americans prefer daylight saving time.
A Monmouth University Poll in March found that 61 percent of respondents were in favor of abandoning the weather change. A YouGov poll that month found that 64 percent of respondents preferred a year-round environment. A 2021 YouGov and The Economist poll showed 63 percent support for one setting.
All three polls show that the public favors daylight saving time over standard time.
“We can go out after work and exercise. We can go shopping or have dinner at night when it’s not dark,” said Cathy Kipp, a Democratic state representative from Colorado, where the Legislature this year approved a switch to permanent daylight saving time, subject to federal approval. “People want light after they finish work. They don’t want darkness at both ends of the day.”
The public associates daylight saving time with daylight — and summer vacation, backyard barbecues, sun and warmth.
“I think the reason a lot of people like daylight saving time is because they like summer,” said Jennifer Martin, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Responding to a trend in state legislation, the Senate passed legislation in the spring that would make daylight saving time the new permanent setting. The Sun Protection Act of 2021 would effectively set the clocks forward an hour forever in every state except two. Arizona and Hawaii would be allowed to continue on year-round standard time.
The bill prevailed in a process called unanimous consent, which bypassed the normal routine of testimony and debate. Some senators later joked that it was a fast pass caught them off guard.
After the Senate vote, the DST movement hit a wall in the House. As the stakes rose, voters and lobbyists flooded lawmakers with messages on both sides of the great weather debate. Malow, Vanderbilt’s sleep scientist, testified against it. Legislators protested. Clouds of indecision hung over the Sun Protection Act. After months of delay, observers expect that there will be no decisive votes soon.
For now, it looks like the big reset will continue.
“We know that most Americans don’t want to keep changing their clocks back and forth,” Representative Jan Schakowsky, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the House subcommittee where the bill stalled, said in a statement.
“I have received calls from constituents who prefer permanent standard time because they are concerned about the safety of children who have to wait too long in the dark during the winter for the school bus, and I have heard from constituents and businesses who prefer permanent daylight saving time because they prefer longer daylight hours. While there appears to be no consensus yet, I continue to listen to my constituents and work with my colleagues to determine the best way forward.”
One congressional aide put it more bluntly. “We know that 7 out of 10 Americans want that to happen,” he said. “We just don’t know which one to do. This is an issue that will have half the country upset no matter what.”
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he is working on the bill and is not authorized to discuss it.
Local legislatures and survey respondents appear to favor daylight saving time in much of the country. States that have permanently adopted Daylight Savings Time – if Congress allows – include the northern border states of Maine, Minnesota, Montana and Washington, where daylight stops in the winter.
The stakes in each clock change are higher in the North, where even a one-hour shift can mean the start of school or a “Blade Runner” commute. darkness of darkness.
The sun will rise at 8:26 a.m. on Christmas morning in Bismarck, ND, one of the nation’s northernmost cities. If daylight saving time lasted all year, Christmas would dawn at 9:26.
“We weren’t made to start the day in the dark,” Martin said.
Winter days are short in Minnesota too. However, the state legislature passed permanent daylight saving time in 2021, subject to federal approval.
“My feeling is that there may be more people who prefer the extra hour of sunlight in the evening that daylight saving time allows,” said Mike Freiberg, the Democrat who sponsored the bill in the state House.
But Freiberg is not a fan of daylight saving time. He previously advocated for year-round standard time in Minnesota.
“Honestly, I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other,” he said. “I just want to get rid of the clock changes.”
He is not alone. Jeff Bridges, a Democratic state senator in Colorado, has sponsored legislation to put his state on permanent standard time and daylight saving time. The DST bill has survived.
“Personally, I just want the madness to end,” Bridges said.
Year-round daylight saving time may work better in some places than others. As it currently stands, sunrise never comes until much after 7 a.m. in the middle of winter in the Schakowsky neighborhood of the Chicago area, near the eastern edge of the Central Time Zone.
Benton Harbor is just 100 miles away, across the Michigan border. However, according to a rough calculation of regional time, sunrise arrives there about an hour later, in the Eastern time zone. Daylight saving time year-round would push sunrise as early as 9:14 a.m. in January.
“We cannot extend the day. That’s the problem,” said Ali Güler, an associate professor of biology at the University of Virginia.
Some sleep experts, including Güler, would rather see the nation united in any setting year-round than endure devastating seasonal changes.
“The switch is terrible,” he said. “You can actually measure the havoc it wreaks every year,” the number of heart attacks and car accidents in the murky days after the brutal spring returns.
But Güler would prefer permanent standard time. Other experts, including Martin, favor “as much standard time as possible,” even if that means continuing to change the clocks semiannually.
“I read a great quote somewhere,” Martin said: “Light in the morning is for our health. The light in the evening is for our enjoyment.’”
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