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The Future of Daylight Savings


A reminder to set your clocks back one hour in the fall. (Photo: WFMZ)

Each year, on the first Sunday of November, the clocks of this country “fall back” one hour to conform with standard time. However, the long-standing tradition may be coming to an end. On March 15, United States Senators passed legislation to permanently jump to standard time. However, the bill has been stalled in the House since, as congressional members debate what should happen with the time in the country going forward.

How did we get to this debate? Daylight savings was introduced in 1918 to save oil and electricity during World War I. However, in today's day and age, Americans are no longer saving money from daylight savings. A 2011 study from Yale produced evidence that, “Indiana households spent an extra $9 million per year in electricity bills because they spent more on heating and cooling, even though people used lights less.”

Alongside the financial distress caused by daylight savings, Americans are experiencing physical harm as well. A 2020 study found that fatal traffic accidents in the United States increased 6% in the week after daylight saving started. Other studies have found that the switch to daylight saving brings small increases in workplace injuries and medical errors in the days following the change.

These studies look at the effects of turning the clock forward, but what about the effect of turning the clock backwards? A 2004 study estimated that switching to year-round daylight saving would result in 171 fewer pedestrian deaths each year and 195 fewer deaths among car drivers or passengers. Another recently published study predicted that year-round daylight saving time would prevent 33 deaths and around 2,000 injuries among humans each year by reducing deer-vehicle collisions.

Law professor Steve Calandrillo from the University of Washington argues that sunlight later in the day is much more beneficial. "I’ve always said darkness kills, sunshine saves — and darkness kills more people in the evening than it does in the morning," he said.

Like on most issues, Americans are divided. Residents of the United States may not agree on which time to operate on, but they do agree they would rather not keep flipping their clocks. There have been long running debates on ending daylight savings for years, and in 1974, Congress passed legislation codifying daylight saving time into law. But after eight Florida children died in traffic accidents due to the change, the legislation was repealed less than a year later.

Because of the history with daylight savings, the debate in Congress is a hefty one. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat in the House of Representatives, said, “I have received calls from constituents who prefer permanent standard time because they have safety concerns for children who have to wait too long in the dark during winter for the school bus," as well as, “I have heard from constituents and businesses who prefer permanent daylight saving time because they prefer longer daylight hours.”

Josh Barro, a political commentator, believes that the system we have in place makes the most sense. “I think we have the system we have for good reason … we have a certain number of daylight hours in the day and it’s going to vary depending on the axial tilt of the earth. And we need a way to manage it so that we wake up not too long after sunrise on most days,” Barro said.

Alongside the politicians and residents, sleep experts are also at a disagreement about what to do. Horacio de la Iglesia, a professor of biology at the University of Washington, said,, “though sleep experts favor permanent standard time, most would opt for switching back and forth over permanent daylight saving time.”

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