America has already rejected permanent daylight saving time

The US Senate just voted to allow millions of children to go to school before dawn for months on end on a bill that would put the entire country in permanent daylight saving time. This problem is just one of many with the idea of ​​eliminating the clocks set back twice a year.

In fact, we tried it back in the ’70s – and changed our minds.

Yes, tens of millions of Americans could get an extra hour of sleep one night a year — but as a result, they would have to go to work or school in the dark and cold for four months. Alternatively, other millions of Americans would lose 240 days of beautiful spring and summer evenings.

Such would be the impact of proposals at the national level and in many states to adopt either permanent daylight saving time (summer DST throughout the winter) or permanent standard time (using winter standard time throughout the year). While these options may seem tempting, both have major flaws.

Our current system, daylight saving time from spring to fall followed by standard time in winter, is an excellent compromise. It offers the numerous advantages of summertime for most of the year and avoids the many problems of wintertime during the darkest, coldest months.

The Senate plan passed Tuesday, permanent daylight hours, is not a new idea at all. Already tried out across the United States, it proved quite unpopular nationally and was quickly discontinued.

School bus
Permanent DST could result in millions of students heading to school before sunrise.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Grand Central
Permanent Daylight Saving Time could force Americans to go to work in the dark for months.
AFP via Getty Images

During a national energy crisis in 1974, the federal government instituted a nationwide permanent two-year daylight saving time period. But the winter DST quickly lost favor. People didn’t like going to work on very dark winter mornings. They particularly disliked sending children to school on very dark mornings, walking down dark streets, or waiting for buses on dark streets

Polls showed that daylight saving time was popular most months – but not from November to February. Congress agreed to the national ruling and eliminated permanent daylight saving time – although the program would have ended automatically after one more year.

Due to the permanent daylight time, sunrises are already an hour later late in winter – sunrises in New York, Chicago and San Francisco around 8:30 am; Minneapolis, Detroit and Seattle rise around 9am; sunrises after 9:30 a.m. in some US areas. Many went to work or school in complete darkness.

In addition, mornings under winter DST would also be colder – uncomfortable everywhere and especially in colder areas. Many people would be outside before sunrise when it is at its coldest.

Permanent Standard Time makes summer sunrises extremely early.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Other issues: Sleep and circadian cycle experts state that dark mornings are worse for health than dark evenings and that it’s important to get exposure to daylight soon after waking up.

The other idea, permanent standard time, eliminates the many benefits of eight months of daylight saving time. Numerous studies show that summertime from spring to fall reduces traffic deaths, reduces crime such as robberies, improves public health and quality of life by getting people outdoors more, reducing energy consumption and minimizing energy peaks.

With permanent standard time, many spring and summer sunrises are extremely early while everyone is asleep: New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas rise before 4:30 am; Sunrises in Los Angeles, Washington, and Cleveland before 5:00 am For many months, Americans slept in the morning sun, wasting daylight that they could make better use of later in the day. Today’s DST schedule shifts a “wasted” hour of sunshine into a much more usable evening hour.

Since 1966, each state could choose a permanent standard time; only two refused for special reasons. Hawaii is near the equator, where daylight hours vary little throughout the year and therefore the benefits of daylight savings time are reduced. Arizona? With extreme summer heat in the most populated areas, people don’t want Added summer daylight – instead they wait for sunset to go outside.

Polls show that Daylight Saving Time is not popular during the months of November through February.
Getty Images

Both permanent daylight saving time and permanent standard time would eliminate daylight saving time changes. While many find the change mildly annoying and adapt quickly, others find it annoying and report short-term negative effects. But the effects of the DST last only a day or two, while the benefits of Summer DST last 240 days and the benefits of Winter Standard Time last 120 days.

The forward daylight saving time change is similar to traveling east one time zone (Chicago to New York, London to Paris, Beijing to Tokyo), which many people around the world do every day. (And many travel across multiple time zones.)

There are better ways than rearranging our time system to minimize negative effects of the DST, such as: B. the very short-term increase of a day or two in car accidents. For example, a public service campaign several days before each daylight saving time change could remind people of the upcoming time change and encourage them to sleep more and go to bed earlier on the days before. This is preferable to any four months of very dark and cold mornings each year.

Permanent daylight saving time and permanent standard time have many disadvantages. The current, very sensible DST compromise system brings great benefits all year round – and gives us the best of both worlds.

David Prerau, author of Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Conscious Story of Daylight Saving Time, served as DST Adviser to Congress and the UK Parliament. America has already rejected permanent daylight saving time


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