On March 15, the United States Senate unanimously voted in favor of the Sunshine Protection Act, which would effectively eliminate the biannual clock-switch beginning in 2023 by making Daylight Saving Time (DST) universal (excluding Arizona and Hawaii), ending the period of Standard Time, which lasts from early November to mid-March every year. President Biden should indisputably sign this act into law, which would not only assuage the ubiquitous annoyance at disrupted sleep schedules but would also benefit public health in a multitude of ways, ranging from reducing car and pedestrian accidents to crime rates.
So why does the irritating practice of changing our clocks exist anyways? DST serves to extend the daylight hours during spring and summer, when most of us would be heading back from work or school, in exchange for losing an hour of daylight in the morning, typically before people commute to work or school.
The practice originated in World War I as a response to the deficiency of fuel in the United States; experts believed that longer daylight hours would reduce the time that consumers were using lights, which in turn would reduce electricity consumption and accordingly save fuel. The practice was adopted and abandoned on and off again, most notably during World War II, until it was finally made permanent by lawmakers in 1966.
However, the original intent of changing our clocks back and forth, reducing energy consumption during the World Wars, is not backed by evidence. Results of studies measuring the effectiveness of changing time are mixed. While it may reduce light usage, it also increases the use of heating and air conditioning, as well as the consumption of gas. What the time change was designed to accomplish is not borne out by the evidence.
Not only are the supposed benefits of Standard Time not met, but there are also countless negative consequences from the biannual switching of clocks. The rate of traffic accidents consistently increases in the week following the time switch because losing that one hour of sleep increases drowsiness and fatigue, thereby reducing mental clarity and reaction time. Sleep deprivation that accompanies the clock switch has further been illustrated to increase the incidence of heart attacks. Changing times has also been seen to increase workplace injuries and decrease worker productivity over time. With such negative effects, why should we keep the one-hour time change around? In light of these findings, the answer seems like a no-brainer.
There are multiple benefits to the permanent extension of Daylight Saving Time. The original goal of the time change was to reduce fuel consumption, and studies show that there is a .5% decrease in residential electricity usage due to the lengthier exposure to natural sunlight. There is also proof that children find more time to be outside post-“spring forward”, which coincides with an increase in both their physical and mental health. Crime tends to decrease, and though rather odd, it does have a scientific explanation: Most crimes tend to take place at night, and with prolonged daytime, there is a smaller likelihood of individuals committing crimes that require darkness. Just about everyone benefits from this plan to extend DST, and the social and economic benefits tend to overlap the potential of “losing sleep” the time brings about.
We support the Sunshine Protection Act and believe that it should be signed into law by President Biden if it lands on his desk. The planned benefits of implementing Standard Time don’t actualize. Energy consumption does not decrease but remains stable or increases. Sleep deprivation from the time switch wreaks havoc by increasing the risks of accidents and cardiovascular ailments and negatively affecting the workplace. Benefits that would come from enacting the Sunshine Protection Act would be many like better childhood health and a decrease in criminal activity. May we hopefully be a country in permanent DST when next year comes around.