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Changing Clocks for the Last Time? The Latest News on Daylight Saving Laws

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The History of DST and the Movement to Stop Changing the Clocks

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When we “fall back” this November, will it be the last time? The Senate passed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent, yet it never passed the House. What’s next? Is Daylight Saving going to end? Why do we have to change the clocks? Learn more, including why many Americans—from farmers to scientists—dislike the twice-yearly time reset. 

On the second Sunday in March, we set our clocks forward 1 hour, beginning Daylight Saving Time. Then, on the first Sunday in November, we set our clocks back 1 hour, signaling the end of Daylight Saving Time and a return to Standard Time. See this year’s DST dates.

Many Americans (as well as Europeans and people worldwide) believe that changing the clocks is an antiquated wartime practice with more negative than positive results. According to one study,  7 out of 10 Americans today do not want to change their clocks and think it’s a bad idea. According to another 2022 study, 6 out of 10 Americans would stop fooling with the clock. You get the idea. 

Here’s the catch: Not everyone agrees on whether the clocks should stay on standard time (the clock defined by the sun) OR Daylight Saving Time (DST, the clock that darkens mornings to brighten evenings).

clocks flying through the solar system

A CBS News poll in March 2022 found that:

  • 33% preferred standard time year-round
  • 46% of U.S. residents preferred daylight saving time all year round
  • 21% were okay with continuing to clock switch twice a year.

Another 2022 Monmouth poll found that 

  • 13% preferred standard time year-round
  • 44% of U.S. residents preferred daylight saving time all year round
  • 35% were okay with continuing to clock switch twice a year.

In other words, those who want to stick with a single year-round time prefer later sunrise and sunset hours (44%) than the earlier setting offered by standard time (13%).  

The number of Americans who want to stop resetting the time and also want to make Daylight Saving Time permanent has been increasing steadily over the decades. This growing frustration change in attitude may be partly due to the computer revolution and other modern-day reasons. 
 

a clock on fall leaves
Photo credit: Billion Photos/Shutterstock

The Latest DST News From the U.S. States

In March 2022, the Senate passed legislation to make daylight saving time permanent. The federal Uniform Time Act allows permanent standard time but not permanent DST.

The U.S. Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act (S.623), introduced by a Florida senator. This would have established permanent daylight saving time in the U.S. starting in November 2023. To the surprise of many, the Act was passed by unanimous voice consent. 

However, since federal law does not currently allow year-round DST, the Sunshine Protection Act needed to be passed by the House and then the President, in June 2022, the U.S. House failed to pass the bill, which expired in December 2022. To be considered again, it will have to be reintroduced.

According to The National Conference of State Legislation, state legislatures have considered at least 450 bills and resolutions in recent years to establish year-round daylight saving time as soon as federal law allows it.

In the last five years, 19 states have enacted legislation or passed resolutions to provide year-round daylight saving time if Congress allowed such a change and, in some cases, if surrounding states enact the same legislation. 

The 19 states are Colorado (2022), Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Montana (2021). Idaho, Louisiana, Ohio (resolution), South Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming (2020). Delaware, Maine, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington (2019). Florida (2018; California voters also authorized such a change that year, but legislative action is pending). Some states have commissioned studies on the topic, including Massachusetts (2017) and Maine (2021).

According to the NCSL, “At least 29 states considered or are considering 75 pieces of legislation related to Daylight Saving Time (DST) in 2023—Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming. HB 1422 in Texas passed the House on April 11, which provides that the state will observe daylight saving time year-round, while SB 7 passed the Oklahoma Senate, which would establish year-round daylight standard time. Oklahoma also adopted SCR 9—supporting the federal Sunshine Protection Act of 2023.

Updated 1/2024. Credit: https://www.ncsl.org/

The History of Time Change

We’ve grappled with the changing of the clocks for decades. Permanent DST has been attempted and reverted twice in the U.S. It started with a change in 1918. 

Daylight Saving Was a War Time Effort

Historically, the changing of clocks was established by law in 1918 as a fuel-saving measure during World War I.  

However, a common myth is that DST was established to extend daylight hours for farmers. This is not true. Farmers were extremely opposed to turning their clocks forward and back twice a year. Changing hours is actually a disruption for the farmer. Imagine telling a dairy cow accustomed to being milked at 5:00 a.m. that their milking time needs to be moved an hour because the truck is coming to pick up their milk at a different time! For the farmer, plants, and animals, it is the sun and seasons that determine their activity.

The 1918 law lasted only seven months. It proved unpopular with farmers and others. However, after its repeal in 1919, some states and localities continued the observance.  

It took another war, World War II, for President Franklin D. Roosevelt to introduce a law establishing year-round DST. This “War Time” law lasted from February 9, 1942, to September 30, 1945.

From 1945 to 1966, DST observance was quite inconsistent across the states. There were no uniform rules. This caused massive confusion in the transportation and broadcasting industry, which pushed for standardization. Farmers continued to oppose it.  

a farmer milking a cow
Photo Credit: Zaccio/Shutterstock

Uniform Time Act of 1966

To address this confusion, permanent DST was introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 12, 1966, and signed into law as the Uniform Time Act. This established a system of uniformity within each time zone. Daylight saving time was the law throughout the United States and its territories. However, states were allowed to opt out of the law, and some did.  

Daylight Saving Time Act of 1974

The United States experienced a severe energy crisis in the 1970s. Consequently, in 1974, the Daylight Saving Time Act was signed into law, establishing DST year-round. Although the law was expected to save energy, it was widely unpopular. Because daylight occurred later, many people had to go to school and work in the dark. Parent associations were especially vocal about children waiting for school buses in the dark.  

Energy Policy Act of 2005

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 amended the Uniform Time Act of 1966 by abolishing the year-round DST and changing the start and end dates of DST in order to lengthen the previous daylight-saving time.  

  • DST would now start on the second Sunday of March (March 11, 2007) instead of on the first Sunday of April (April 1, 2007).   
  • DST would end the first Sunday of November (November 4, 2007), rather than the last Sunday of October (October 28, 2007).

Congress retained the right to revert to the previous law should the change prove unpopular or if the energy savings would be insignificant. Notably, states were granted the right to opt out of observing DST and remain on standard time. However, they were not allowed to establish DST as year-round. This would require Congress to approve an amendment to the Uniform Time Act.

All states except Hawaii and Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Nation) observe DST.

  • Hawaii opted out in 1967 as the sun rises and sets at about the same time every day, so why bother? 
  • Arizona opted out in order to give residents lower temperatures during waking and bedtime hours.

U.S. territories not observing DST include Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas.

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Does the Time Change Conserve Energy?

A Department of Energy report in 2008 found that during the four weeks the U.S. extended DST after the 2005 law, there were savings of about 0.5 percent in electricity per day. Later studies have also shown that the energy savings were minimal. Bottom line: There are no significant savings in electric consumption. Perhaps this would have once been the case, but it is no longer a big factor with modern technology.

Health, Safety, and Other Effects of Time Change

While a time change may seem minor to many folks, a full hour shift in the clock does have reverberations, almost a butterfly effect. 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine maintains that Standard Time is better aligned with human circadian biology.

Yet, many other studies favor staying on Daylight Saving Time:

  • There is an uptick in fatal car accidents during these transitions. Specifically, there are fewer deadly car and pedestrian accidents when the times shift to DST.
  • Studies also show there is increased heart attack risk with time changes. Another study showed an association between DST and heart attacks, especially after the spring shift and in women.
  • Similarly, studies show a reduced risk for stroke. DST transitions are associated with an increase in hospitalizations from stroke during the first two days after circadian rhythm disruption.
  • The fall transition to standard time is linked to an increase in crime that costs the country billions of dollars annually. With DST, there is additional daylight in the evenings, which reduces the number of robberies by 27%, according to a 2015 Brookings Institution report.
  • According to a study by JP Morgan Chase, there is a drop in economic activity of 2.2% to 4.9% when clocks move back.
  • Thanks to additional daylight, there is more physical activity. The Journal of Environmental Psychology found that DST increased pedestrian activity by 62% and cyclist activity by 38% because of additional daylight.
  • Children also tend to exercise more with added daylight. This reduces childhood obesity and increases physical fitness, according to studies published by the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity as well as the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
  • A 2016 study found evidence that the switch back to standard time in the fall is closely linked to a jump in depression diagnoses and has a significant toll on mental health.

But what about November, when one can get an extra hour of sleep? The reality is that most people do not really get more sleep. And the disruption in the body’s daily sleep-wake cycle can affect sleep for several days.

→ See 5 tips to help your body to adjust to Daylight Saving Time.

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What About the Rest of the World?

Frustrations with the DST clock changes are not only in the United States. In the case of the European Union, a poll was conducted in which 80% favored eliminating any time change. As of today, the European Parliament has drafted a law to permanently remove DST from the European Union. It was planned for 2021, but negotiations have not started due to the still severe health and economic effects of Covid-19. Other countries have already ended seasonal clock changes, including Argentina (2009), Russia (2014), and Turkey (2016).

What do you think about daylight saving time? Tell us in your comments below.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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