As of this writing, 39 states have proposed legistation and nine states have enacted legislation to call for keeping daylight saving time year-round. Is it time to scrap this practice? Learn more about the myths of DST (it’s NOT for farmers), the latest news on states’ efforts, and weigh in with your thoughts!
It’s a popular myth that Daylight Saving Time exists for farmers. This practice—which only became regular in 1966, suprisingly enough—was actually challenged by farmers and is being increasingly challenged by modern society.
Daylight Saving Time in the 1970s
When I grew up in the 1970s, Daylight Saving Time (DST) seemed popular. The government and schools seemed to promote it as a positive and beneficial force. When the clocks moved forward an hour in March, my mother would get a grumpy me out of bed and say, “Look! All you kids have more time after school to play outside!” (Yes, there was a time when more kids played outside.)
Interestingly, DST wasn’t a regular “thing” until April 12, 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law. The Uniform Time Act established a system of uniform (within each time zone) Daylight Saving Time throughout the U.S. and its territories. States were allowed to opt out (and some did).
Before then, DST was briefly used during World War I and World War II to conserve fuel. It was used again for this purpose for a short while during the oil crisis of the early 1970’s under Nixon. (Read more about the checkered history of Daylight Saving Time.)
Photo credit: Billion Photos/Shutterstock
Daylight Saving is NOT for Farmers
Despite the popular belief that Daylight Saving was a convenience created for farmers, DST has nothing to do with farming. In fact, farmers have often been the strongest lobby against the change. Farmers didn’t like DST when it was first introduced and most don’t like it to this day.
During the first World War I experiment in 1918, farmers were extremely opposed to having to turn back and forward their clocks. Not surprisingly, it disrupted their schedules and made it more difficult to get the most out of hired help.
Imagine telling a dairy cow used to being milked at 5 a.m. that their milking time needs to move back an hour before the milk truck is coming to do a pickup. For the farmer—and the plants and animals—it’s the sun and the seasons that determine the best times to do things.
After the war ended in 1918, the DST law (which lasted 7 months) proved so unpopular with our agrarian society, the federal law was repealed (in 1919). Some state and localities continued the observance, however.
During another war, World War II, “War Time” was enforced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt which introduced year-round Daylight Saving Time from February 9, 1942, to September 30, 1945.
From 1945 to 1966, observance of DST was quite inconsistent across U.S. states. There were no uniform rules. This caused massive confusion with the transportation industry and the broadcasting industry, which pushed for standardization. The farmers, however, were still opposed to it.
To address this confusion, the Uniform Time Act was established in 1966.
Photo Credit: Zaccio/Shutterstock
So, Who Benefits From Daylight Saving?
Today, the country has a synchronized Daylight Saving Time schedule. It’s not war time. Why do we continue to change our clocks?
Some constituencies profit:
- For example, today, we drive our cars everywhere. The lobbying groups for convenience stores know this—and pushed hard for daylight saving time to last as long as possible.
- Extra daylight means more people shop in retail environments. Outdoor businesses such as golf courses and gardening supply stores report more profit with more daylight hours.
Does DST really conserve energy? According to Congress, this is the main reason for the switch. When the Energy Policy Act extended the hours in 2007, Congress retained the right to revert back should the change prove unpopular or if energy savings are not significant.
- A Department of Energy report from 2008 found that the extended DST put in place in 2005 saved about 0.5 percent in total electricity use per day. However, the closer you live to the equator, where the amount of daylight varies little, the amount of electricity actually increased after the clocks were switched.
- In Indiana, where I live, the change to DST in 2006 actually cost us. Matthew Kotchen, a Yale economist, found a 1 percent increase in electricity use in Indiana. Due to higher electricity bills and more pollution, Indiana’s change ended up costing consumers $9 million per year.
- Further studies in 2008 showed that Americans use more domestic electricity when they practice daylight saving.
Today, as modern society marches forward, the energy argument may become obsolete. In terms of work, we’re not really a strictly 9 to 5 society any more. Factories have different shifts. Office workers use the internet. Farmers will use daylight hours, no matter what. At home, our electricity demand is no longer based on sunrises and sunsets. We drive instead of walking, which means daylight saving actually increases gasoline use.
It’s quite possible we are now wasting energy.
And with computers, TV screens, and air conditioning using more energy, more Americans find switching clocks increasingly unpopular.
Our Bodies, Our Health
Energy isn’t the only thing to be considered. What about our health? Polls show that the switch between Daylight Saving Time and Standard Time each year is miserable for most humans.
Clocks are man-made. Changing the time disrupts our body clocks or circadian rhythm. For most people, the resulting tiredness is more of an inconvenience twice a year. For many folks, however, it’s a more serious issue.
- Studies show that lack of sleep leads to more car accidents and heart attacks—the latter by as much as 24 percent.
- Studies link the lack of sleep at the start of DST to workplace injuries, suicide, and miscarriages.
- In the workplace, studies have found that there is a decrease in productivity after the spring transition.
- What about November, when you get an extra hour of sleep? The reality is that most people don’t sleep any extra. And the disruption in the body’s daily sleep-wake cycle can affect sleep for several days.
You could argue it’s better for school children (not going to school in the dark); however, I’d disagree.
- Teenagers definitely don’t do well with DST during the spring change, when they lose an hour of morning sleep.
- And consider the parents with small children; the kid that gets up a 5 a.m. will now be getting up the equivalent of 4 a.m. Parents will certainly lose sleep and spend weeks adapting twice a year—and studies show that their happiness levels are lower.
A Movement to Elminate Clock Changing
Only Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Nation), Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands don’t spring forward or fall back.
- Hawaii abandoned the law in 1967. In Hawaii, the sun rises and sets at about the same time every day, so why bother?
- Arizona followed suit in 1968. Not setting clocks forward gives residents lower temperatures during waking and bedtime hours.
As of 2020, 39 states have now proposed legislation to change their observance of Daylight Saving Time in some way, according to the Congressional Research Service.
In the past three years, 9 states have passed bills to stop the switching of clocks—and stay on permanent Daylight Saving Time, if Congress were to allow it.
- In February 2020, Utah passed a bill to end the practice of “springing forward.”
- Maryland recently introduced a similar bill which will heard in committee on March 5, 2020.
- In January, 2020, South Carolina lawmakers passed a bill to make daylight savings time permanent.
- California also has a bill which will be put to a vote in 2020.
- In June, 2019, Oregon also passed a bill to keep the state on permanent daylight saving.
- A bill in Washington State also proposes year-round daylight saving.
- Arkansas, Delaware, Maine, Washington, and Tennessee also passed bills in 2019.
- In 2018, the Florida Sunshine Protection Act was passed in the state Legislature with overwhelming support for year-round daylight saving time.
- Some states in New England—Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island all have bills in the works to adopt year-round “Atlantic standard time,” a zone that lies to the east of Eastern standard time, and opt out of daylight saving.
State Laws Superceded
Ultimately, it’s a federal decision. As discussed above, the time is set by the Uniform Time Act, which was established in 1966 for a synchronized DST schedule across the country.
States are granted the right to opt out of observing daylight saving time—and remain on standard time—without any federal say (e.g., Hawaii).
However, most states wish to stop switching the clocks and stay on daylight saving time year round. This would require Congress to approve an amendment to the Uniform Time Act.
While it’s unclear if Congress will approve of this amendment, it’s what more and more people want, based on state legislation.
Bottom-line: Today, even if a state governor signs a bill into law, it remains the intent of Congress to supersede any and all laws of the States.
Our European Counterparts
This brings us to our European contemporaries. They also practice Daylight Saving Time. For most of Europe, DST:
- Begins at 1:00 a.m. GMT on the last Sunday of March
- Ends at 1:00 a.m. GMT on the last Sunday of October
In 2019, the European Union voted to remove Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanently by 2021.
Each member country will have until April 2020 to decide whether to remain permanently on “summer time” or to change their clocks back one final time to permanent standard time, also known as “winter time.”
Other countries have already ended DST:
- Argentina stopped daylight saving in 2009.
- Russia ended its daylight saving in 2014.
- Turkey ended DST permanently in 2016.
Just as is the case with North Americans, the EU population overwhelmingly wants to abolish DST. A poll was conducted in which 80% were in favor of eliminating it.
The head of the European Commission, which originally drafted the directive to end DST, said, “It would be pointless to ask for people’s opinions and not act on it if you don’t agree with them.”
What do you think about Daylight Saving Time? Tell us in the comments below!