As of 2020, an impressive 32 states have engaged in legislation to establish Daylight Saving Time (DST) as the official time year-round. Is it time to scrap this clock-changing practice? Learn more about the myths of DST (it’s NOT for farmers) and the latest news on states’ efforts, and weigh in with your thoughts!
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. It seems simple, but ends up having a lot of unexpected implications.
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
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
Pros and Cons of 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?
Well, 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.
But Does DST Conserve Energy?
The U.S. Department of Transportation website states that DST saves energy. However, modern studies have challenged this conclusion:
- 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, a more recent convert to DST, a 2006 study showed DST hurt the state. 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 used 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.
Health and Safety
Energy isn’t the only thing to be considered. What about our health and safety? For most people, the resulting tiredness is a minor inconvenience twice a year. For many folks, however, it’s a more serious issue.
The Department of Transportation claims (without any recent studies) Daylight Saving Time saves lives, prevents traffic injuries, and reduces crime. However, recent studies have shown negative impacts on people’s health and circadian rhythms because of time changes as well as a higher number of car crashes and workplace injuries in the days after a time change.
Think about it. It’s not surprising that the effect would be more negative. Clocks are man-made. Our circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats on each rotation of the Earth roughly every 24 hours. Whenever our basic circadian (daily) rhythms—the day/night cycle—are disrupted, it leads to slower thinking.
- Studies have show that time changes result in a higher number of 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.
Some argue it’s better for school children (not going to school in the dark).
- However, in the fall, we’re all coming home in the dark!
- 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. until their internal clock resets.
A Movement to Eliminate Clock Changing
Since 2015, more than 200 bills and resolutions have been introduced in virtually every state to either stay on standard time or convert to full-time DST.
Until 2018, not much happened. Then, a movement began and there are now 13 states which have enacted legislation to provide for year-round daylight saving time.
- In 2018, Florida voted to make DST permanent. 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 so far, six MORE states have Utah passed a bill to end the practice of “springing forward.“ Joining Utah are: Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming.
So Far in 2020
As of September 1, 2020, at least 32 states have considered 85 pieces of legislation, and six states—Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming—have enacted legislation.
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.
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 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.
While it’s unclear if Congress will approve of this amendment, it’s what more and more citizens 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 March of 2019, the European Union voted actually voted in favor of abandoning seasonal clock changes! The draft law proposes that 2021 will be the last time EU Member States and affiliated countries will change their clocks. 410 members voted in favor of the draft, 192 were against, and 51 members abstained from voting.
However, as of this writing (October, 2020), plans for removing the time change have been pushed aside because of greater problems considering the COVID-19 pandemic and the long lasting Brexit negotiations, and time changes may therefore continue until 2022 or later.
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!