Staying with daylight saving time: The science is positive
At a time when our nation stands divided on nearly every front, there is a defining philosophical debate that can bind us back together.
Stop fooling with the darn clocks!
In an Economist/YouGov poll last year, Americans supported ending the semiannual switches, 63% to 16%. The consensus cut across party, race, gender and age.
Americans want change, or rather… they don’t.
They want light at night, and they’re right. Of those who preferred the end of the twice-a-year switch, overwhelming preference was for permanent daylight savings.
More people want the hour of light at night for afternoon and evening activities. Apparently, an extra hour of morning light doesn’t improve their lives as much.
The switching is also a safety issue. Numerous studies have shown that switching time increases car accidents and heart attacks. One Rutgers University meta-study even concluded that switching to permanent DST would prevent 171 pedestrian deaths and 195 motor vehicle fatalities annually, while switching to permanent standard time would increase such deaths by about the same numbers.
As for the "What about the farmers?" argument to stay with standard time, either part of the year or always, lawmakers in Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and many other heavily agricultural states aren’t buying it. They are among 20 states with laws saying they’ll automatically go to full-time DST if Congress allows.
And while there are legitimate fears about setting sunrise later, including making children wait for school buses in the dark and upsetting circadian rhythms in a way that has negative implications, the science on permanent DST is positive enough that the idea ought to spring ahead. A 2007 study of the effect of the lengthening of DST also concluded the shift reduced robberies by 7%. Other crime also drops by measurable amounts.
While current federal law allows states to either shift clocks twice a year or stay on permanent standard time, permanent DST is not barred.
In New York, the bills getting attention, from Sen. James Skoufis and Assemb. Kenneth Zebrowski, would switch the state to Atlantic Standard Time, as observed just off the Atlantic shore, if New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut also do. Regionalization is crucial in the Northeast, where trains are key, and Skoufis said this change does not require congressional action, as another set of New York bills on offer that changes the state to DST does. Better, this change can be made with just permission from the Department of Transportation, and would make DST permanent.
But it's best if Congress would allow states to make DST permanent, adding a choice Americans clearly desire.
Members of Congress ought to ask themselves the last time they improved people’s lives with a hot-topic change favored by four-fifths of those with an opinion.
Then they ought to look at their approval rating of 18%.
That should get us our light, at night, year-round.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.