Clocks spring ahead this Sunday, March 12, 2023 but will this be the last time they change? Last March, the Senate passed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent. What’s next? Learn more, including the reasons 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 around the world) believe that changing the clocks is an antiquated practice from wartime that has 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 whether the clocks should stay on standard time (the clock defined by the sun) OR stay on Daylight Saving Time (DST, the clock that darkens mornings to brighten evenings).
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 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 continuing to clock switch twice a year.
In other words, those want to stick with a single year-round time prefer to have later sunrise and sunset hours (44%) than the earlier setting offered by standard time (13%).
The numbers of Americans who want to stop resetting the time and also want to make Daylight Saving Time permanent have been increasing steadily over the decades. This growing frustration change in attitude may be partly due to the computer revolution and a host of other modern-day reasons.
Photo credit: Billion Photos/Shutterstock
The Latest News From the U.S. States
In March 2022, the Senate passed legislation to make daylight saving time permanent. To note, the federal Uniform Time Act allows permanent standard time but not permanent DST.
The U.S. Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act (S.623), which was introduced by a senator from Florida. 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.
But 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 officially expired in December. To be considered again, it will have to be reintroduced.
According to ncsl.org: 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 for year-round daylight saving time, if Congress were to allow 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).
Updated 10/2022. Credit: https://www.ncsl.org/
The History of Time Change
We’ve grappled with the changing of the clocks for decades. wartime. Permanent DST has been attempted and reverted twice in the U.S. It started with a change from 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, there is a common myth that DST was established to extend the daylight hours for farmers. This is not true. Farmers were extremely opposed to having to turn 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 which determines their activity.
The 1918 law lasted only seven months. It proved unpopular with farmers and other folks. However, after repeal in 1919, some state and localities continued the observance.
It took another war, World War II, to introduce a law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, establishing year-round DST. This “War Time” law lasted from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945.
From 1945 to 1966, observance of DST 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.
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
In the 1970s, there was a severe energy crisis in the United States. Consequently, in 1974, the Daylight Saving Time Act was signed into law, establishing DST as 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 but Hawaii and Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Nation) observe DST.
- Hawaii opted out in 1967 as the sun rise 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.
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 is not 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 shifts 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, which found that 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 cyclists 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 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.
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% were in favor of eliminating any time change. As of today, The European Parliament has drafted a law to permanently remove DST in the European Union. It was planned for 2021 but negotiations have not started due to the still serious 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.