Year-round daylight saving time may prove to be less popular than you think

Photo (cc) 2018 by Phil Norton

Now that we appear to be on the verge of adopting daylight saving time year-round, we are finally starting to see some long-overdue pushback.

In The Boston Globe, reporters Gal Tziperman Lotan and Sarah Fatima quote experts who say that although we should stop moving the clocks forward and back twice a year, we should settle on standard time rather than daylight time. The reason: sunrise that can come to Boston as late as 8:15 a.m. during the darkest weeks of the year is far more harmful to us than sunset at 4:15 p.m. They quote Charles Czeisler, a sleep expert at Brigham and Women’s, as saying:

In their zeal to prevent the annual switch, the Senate has unfortunately chosen the wrong time to stabilize onto. What the Senate passed yesterday would require all Americans to start their work and school an hour earlier than they usually do, and that’s particularly difficult to do in the winter, when the sun is rising later.

Czeisler is right — but do we really want to give up those glorious 8:30 p.m. sunsets in the summer, with the light lasting until after 9 for a few weeks? I sure don’t.

So is year-round daylight saving time the way to go? We’ve tried it before — and it quickly proved to be unpopular. In 1973, the federal government adopted a measure to abolish standard time in order to deal with an oil shortage. Andrew Beaujon of Washingtonian magazine writes that the sight of children walking to school in the dark led to quick repeal of the measure:

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. Florida’s governor, Reubin Askew, asked for Congress to repeal the measure. “It’s time to recognize that we may well have made a mistake,” US Senator Dick Clark of Iowa said during a speech in Congress on January 28, 1974. In the Washington area, some schools delayed their start times until the sun caught up with the clock.

In fact, Beaujon found, the increase in the number of fatalities was statistically insignificant, and we really did save a whole lot of energy. But the larger point stands. More sunlight in the afternoon sounds like a good idea until people see what it looks like when they wake up in the morning.

The Senate unanimously passed a permanent daylight saving bill on Wednesday, delighting long-time proponents such as U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, sponsor of the Sunshine Protection Act. The very name suggests that Markey is not a morning person. We’ll see whether it becomes law, or if it stalls once it reaches the House.

There are only so many hours of sunlight available. Some people may not like moving the clocks back and forth, but it’s probably the best of all options.

5 thoughts on “Year-round daylight saving time may prove to be less popular than you think

  1. Steve Ross

    I note that Boston rush hours start early because so many hospital and education workers have a 7am to 3 pm “daytime” work day.

    I also note that as a volunteer I have taught midnight and 1 am community college students coming off the 3 pm-11 pm hospital shifts and found them uniformly attentive and sharp. They had adapted to just ignore the sky. In some cases, their hospital employers had adapted as well, providing shuttle busses and subsidizing Uber etc because the T is unusable that late…

    Lesson: Just set the damn clock on one time and live with it. I’m not sure any study on that that time would be, would be definitive. We’re close to the eastern edge of our time zone and already get our sunrises and sunsets earlier than NYC.

  2. I’m not a morning person, either. That said, I just want them to pick one time and stick with it year-round. I do not care which one they pick.

      1. Steve Ross

        I like to take pictures at sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset… have some nice recent shots of Venus in the morning sky. I want sun, moon, Venus etc to be where I want them, when I’m ready for them, with just the right amount of clouds. There oughta be a law….

  3. Ilex

    Maybe we could go back half an hour this fall and stay there.

    I genuinely don’t care which time we go with, since both standard and daylight saving time can be argued for or against. I just want to stop this endless switching around. I like watching the gradual change in sunrise/sunset and the movement of the stars through the year, and I hate these sudden jerks in the natural shift. It’s not good for anybody.

    As for school kids, there are a lot fewer of them walking now than in the 70s. Also, I tie an Illuminite band around my waist to walk in the dark winter mornings and evenings, and it’s clear that drivers can see it by their reactions. We could provide school children with highly reflective articles of clothing as well, and/or arrange crocodiles led by an adult as they do in the UK. And implementing general pedestrian safety measures would help keep kids safer, too, daylight or dark.

    Let’s just lock the clock somewhere and never change again.

Comments are closed.