Last week, a group of bipartisan senators reintroduced the Sunshine Protection Act, legislation that would make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent across the country. This push to end the practice of clock-changing twice a year has been gaining momentum the past few years. Here’s the latest news on the time change.
Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November in the U.S. and Canada. In March, we “spring” forward and set clocks forward one hour. In November, we “fall” back and set clocks back one hour. Learn more about When Daylight Saving Time Begins and Ends.
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 today.
The reasons that DST was started (as a wartime effort over a century ago) are now antiquated and many Americans find the twice-a-year “time change” makes little sense. In addition, there are many studies that show the negative impact of biannual time changes and the benefits of a year-round Daylight Saving Time.
Latest Updates (March 2021)
In March 2021, a bipartisan bill called the “Sunshine Protection Act of 2021” was submitted for consideration in the U.S. Senate. The bill aims to end the time change and make DST permanent across the United States. Bottom-line, the bill would simply negate the need for Americans to change their clocks twice a year.
The bill has been co-sponsored by eight senators—both Democrats and Republicans—so chances are good that it will at least be considered. If you support this change, consider contacting your state’s senators to let them know!
Daylight Saving Time in the 1970s
Interestingly, Daylight Saving Time (DST) wasn’t a regular “thing” until April 12, 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act into law. This established a system of uniform (within each time zone) Daylight Saving Time rules throughout the U.S. and its territories. States were allowed to opt out (and some did).
The U.S. had Daylight Saving Time as early as 1918, but it was off and on. Namely, 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, the DST law (which lasted only 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. It 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.
DST Practices Today
The current enactment was part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation is the federal agency responsible for overseeing DST and the country’s time zones. All states but Hawaii and Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation) observe DST.
- 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.
The territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands also do not observe DST. Federal law allows a state to exempt itself from observing daylight saving time—upon action by the state legislature—but does not allow the permanent observance of DST.
Photo Credit: Zaccio/Shutterstock
Does the Time Change Conserve Energy?
- A Department of Energy report from 2008 found that during the 4 weeks the U.S. extended daylight savings from the 2005 law, there were savings of about 0.5 percent in electricity per day. Later studies have also shown that the energy savings are minimal but a small savings does occur.
Health and Safety
Energy isn’t the only thing to be considered. What about our health and safety?
- More daylight in evenings results in fewer car crashes and pedestrian accidents, better aligning with drivers’ standard work hours and increase visibility, according to the American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Safety Research.
- It reduces the number of robberies by 27%, according to a 2015 Brookings Institution,
- Studies have show that time changes result in a higher number of cardiac issues, stroke, and seasonal depression.
- When clicks move back, there is a drop in economic activity and worker productivity of 2.2 percent – 4.9 percent, according to a study by JP Morgan Chase.
- It would allow kids to play outside longer. During DST, children see an increase in physical activivty, which helps reduce childhood obesity and increase physical fitness, according to studies published by the International Journal Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity and the Journal of Physical Activity and Health
- The Journal of Environmental Psychology found that DST increased pedestrian activity by 62% and cyclists activity by 38% because of additional daylight.
- Finally, it helps the farmers, without disrupting their agricultural and livestock schedules and their supply chain partners.
- 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.
A Movement to Eliminate Clock Changing
This movement is fairly recent. Since 2015, more than 200 bills and resolutions have been introduced in virtually every state to either stay on standard time or convert to year-round DST.
Until 2018, not much happened. Then, a movement began and there are now more than a dozen states that have enacted legislation to provide for year-round daylight saving time.
- In 2018, the Florida Sunshine Protection Act was passed in the state Legislature with overwhelming support for year-round daylight saving time.
- In 2018, California voters approved a proposition for year-round daylight saving time. But the proposition required a two-thirds vote of the California State Senate which was never brought to a vote because the federal government failed to give the state approval for the time change; the bill died.
Unfortunately, the California State Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications did not bring AB 7 up for a vote and the bill died.”
- In 2019, six more states passed legislation for year-round DST, if authorized by Congress: Arkansas, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington.
- In 2020, Utah passed a bill to end the practice of “springing forward.“ Joining Utah were: Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Wyoming.
As of March 2021, fifteen states — Arkansas, Alabama, California, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming — have passed laws, resolutions or voter initiatives for permanent DST, and dozens more are looking.
It’s All Up to the Federal Government
The problem: A federal statue is require for any state to enact changes. 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.
When the Energy Policy Act extended the hours in 2005, Congress retained the right to revert back should the change prove unpopular or if energy savings are not significant. However, it now takes an act of Congress to make the change.
- States are only 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 establishes DST as the official time year-round. This would require Congress to approve an amendment to the Uniform Time Act.
If the re-introduced Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 was passed by the Senate, it would indeed negate Standard Time, which only lasts between November to March, when Americans turn their clocks back one hour. Americans would keep DST, which currently lasts from March to November, and wouldn’t have to change their clocks twice a year.
Only time will tell if this bill gains enough traction to pass, but public opinion seems to be in favor. The bill has the support of at least eight senators—both Democrats and Republicans—right from the start, so chances are good that the bill will be considered. If you’re interested in showing your support, consider contacting your state’s senators and voicing your opinion!
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 2018, European Parliament drafted a law to permanently remove biannual clock changes in the European Union. The law proposed that 2021 would be the last time EU Member States and affiliated countries would follow the seasonal clock change. However, due to COVID, the plans for removing the time change have been postponed.
Other countries have already ended seasonal clock changes, including Argentina (2009), Russia (2014), and Turkey (2016).
In conclusion, just as is the case with North Americans, the EU population overwhelmingly wants to abolish the clock changes during the year. In the case of the EU, member states would have the option to go permanently to summer (daylight) time or winter (standard) time. A poll was conducted in which 80% were in favor of eliminating the time change. 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!