The battle over daylight saving time: arguments over springing forward and falling back have been heating up in state legislatures.
For the past century, most Americans have been dutifully moving their clocks ahead an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall. In the past year, however, at least 23 states have considered bills aimed at changing that. States are free to debate the issue because the federal government doesn't require them to follow daylight saving time. Some of the bills seek to end daylight saving time; others propose making it last year-round.
Such measures reflect the sentiments of many Americans who suggest in surveys that we simply pick a time and stick with it. Most of the nation currently observes daylight saving time. The only states that don't are Hawaii and almost all of Arizona (see map, facing page).
There are a number of reasons why some states might not want to "spring forward" and "fall back" every year. But each option for ending or keeping daylight saving time raises a new set of potential problems and confusion.
The idea of daylight saving time was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin in the late 1700s. In the U.S., it was adopted in 1918 as a way to save energy (see "A Brief History of Time"). Lawmakers thought an extra hour of afternoon daylight would reduce electricity use. But since the time change creates an extra hour of morning darkness, critics have long argued that it simply shifts energy use to a different time of day.
A 'Bothersome Task'?
The recent increase in opposition to switching the clocks has been sparked by a growing resistance to government interference in our lives, says Michael Downing, a Tufts University professor and author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. Many Americans, he told National Geographic, just want to stop "the government from forcing us to do this bothersome task twice a year."
The other major criticism of daylight saving time is that "the time change back and forth messes with people's circadian rhythms,* " says Jim Reed, who follows the issue for the National Conference of State Legislatures, in Denver, Colorado.
A number of studies have found that losing an hour in the spring causes many Americans to lose sleep and the number of workplace injuries to increase; at least one study links loss of sleep to heart attacks.
Six Tries in Alaska
Proposals to end daylight saving time are nothing new, but are usually unsuccessful. Alaska lawmakers, for example, are considering such a bill, but five previous attempts to get rid of daylight saving time in the state, dating back to 1999, have failed.
One of the reasons many bills fail is opposition from local chambers of commerce. Businesses tend to support daylight saving time because the time change in March produces an extra hour of evening daylight that encourages people to go out and shop.
Legislators have been debating whether they want to stay on daylight saving time year-round or avoid it altogether. But to complicate matters, federal law doesn't currently allow states to use daylight saving time year-round, so any state trying to do so might be challenged in court.
"What's fascinating about this," Downing told National Geographic "is that all of this legislation is evenly split between people who want to stop the change by going on [daylight saving time] permanently and those who want to stop the change by going on standard time permanently."
It appears that even some politicians aren't sure which option they prefer. In Idaho, for example, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle wrote and submitted legislation in 2014 suggesting a move to permanent standard time. But in 2015, Moyle wrote and submitted legislation to have Idaho move to permanent daylight saving time.
"I don't care which one it is," Moyle told The Spokesman-Review. He just hopes for a resolution.
But many people on both sides of the debate are wary of states moving in different directions. Imagine trying to book a plane or make plans with someone in another state; you'd have to know their time zone and whether or not they follow daylight saving time.
"The reality is that if states around the country change things one by one, it will create havoc as you go from one state to another," says Ray Harwood of the Time Zone Report, a website that tracks the issue. "The only real good way to do this is to get Congress to adjust all the time zones all at the same time." *
* The circadian rhythm, often referred to as the "body clock," is a 24-hour cycle that tells your body when to sleep and regulates other physiological processes.
A Brief History of Time
To save fuel during World War I (1914-18), the U.S. changes clocks to add an hour of daylight from late March to late October.
Congress adopts year-round daylight saving time during World War II (1939-45).
To avoid the confusion caused by states and communities adopting their own versions of daylight saving time, Congress passes the Uniform Time Act. It clarifies time-zone boundaries and sets consistent start and end dates.
Daylight saving time is extended by an act of Congress to eight months. It begins the second Sunday in March and ends the first Sunday in November.
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|Publication:||New York Times Upfront|
|Date:||Mar 21, 2016|
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