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On Sunday, most Americans will observe the twice-yearly tradition of adjusting their clocks by an hour to accommodate daylight saving time.
Each March all states other than Arizona and Hawaii “spring forward” to shift an hour of daylight from the morning into the evening, when it will theoretically be utilized by more people. In November clocks “fall back” to return to what is commonly called standard time. The practice started in the United States as a way to save energy during World War I but wasn’t made a national standard until the 1960s.
A push to end the semiannual clock shift, which has been shown to correlate with negative health and productivity outcomes, is gaining steam throughout the country. Most of the momentum is behind a movement to make daylight saving time permanent so the “spring forward” lasts all year long. A number of states including California, Florida, Washington and Oregon have taken legislative steps to do just that, but an act of Congress would be needed for any of those changes to go into effect.
States can, however, choose to forgo daylight saving time and keep the “fall back” schedule all year if they want to, which is what Arizona and Hawaii do.
Why there’s debate
Advocates for eliminating daylight saving time, or making it permanent, say that the supposed advantages of energy savings and benefits to farmers are either unproven or outweighed by the drawbacks of switching clocks twice a year.
Others argue that the current system is best, since it provides more light during waking hours in the summer without forcing workers and schoolchildren to begin their days in darkness when daylight hours shrink in the winter.
One of the things holding back changes is concern over confusion that would arise if some states observed daylight saving time while others didn’t.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has proposed bills in the Senate that would make daylight saving time permanent nationwide each of the past two years. Despite increasing support from representatives in other states and even the president, the bills have not moved forward. Rubio said he’ll continue to push for the change, saying he hopes this Sunday “will be the last time that we have to do this ridiculous changing of the clocks back and forth.”
No more clock changes
Permanently shifting daylight to the evening is safer
“Simply put, darkness kills — and darkness in the evening is far deadlier than darkness in the morning.” — Steve Caladrillo, Marketwatch
Adjusting to the time change can have negative health effects
“Twice a year, switching between daylight saving time and standard time throws us off our usual routine. We might expect to feel a bit sleepy or maybe even a little ‘off.’ But springing forward or falling back an hour can have other surprising effects: It’s linked to changes in our health, diet and even tendency to get into an accident.” — Julianne Pepitone, NBC News
Changing clocks twice a year provides no real benefit
“There’s just no good reason to keep skipping back and forth in time every year. The length of day does not increase; even all our fancy technology can’t alter the tilt of Earth’s axis as it orbits the sun.” — Editorial, Los Angeles Times
Daylight saving time is an unnecessary, useless burden
“The truth is that daylight saving time is a waste of time and accomplishes nothing. Contrary to popular myth, it does not save energy. Nobody likes daylight saving time. Nobody’s even sure what it’s for. But it certainly has no purpose in our technology-driven, always-on society.” — Michael Levin, Fox News
An extra hour of evening daylight year-round would create more outdoor leisure time
“We’re persuaded that it’s time to make the biannual clock change a thing of the past, shorten our period of scurrying home and hibernating, and live a little in the evening all year long.” — Editorial, Chicago Tribune
Keep the current system
Daylight saving time gives people an hour of light when they’ll actually use it
“Daylight saving time takes that low-usefulness prework hour of daylight and transforms it into an hour of light that comes after work, when you might actually use it. That’s really all daylight saving time is: an organized system under which people agree to start the business day one hour earlier during the summer than the winter.” — Josh Barro, Business Insider
The current system provides optimal use of daylight
“The current time system has many advantages. It’s an excellent compromise between the goals of providing the many benefits of DST for most of the year and yet avoiding the problems of winter DST during the year’s darkest, coldest months.” — David Prerau, Dallas Morning News
Winter mornings would be unsafe without the time change
“If DST was implemented year-round, this would delay the winter sunrise in an unhealthy way. … Many workers would then begin their workday in darkness. Worse, young children waiting for the school bus would also be in darkness, creating a potential safety hazard.” — Matthew Metzgar, Tennessean
Making daylight saving permanent would mean people get less sleep
“Daylight saving time creates one more factor that disrupts people’s ability to develop good routines around getting to sleep and staying asleep. Eliminating a factor that leads to poor sleep is a simple thing we can do to help people maintain better habits.” — Art Markman, Houston Chronicle
A patchwork of states that do and don’t observe the time change would create chaos
“You can see the potential problem: If a handful of states decided to stop changing clocks and revert to standard time while the rest of the nation continues to go back and forth and a few states lobby for permission to go to full-time daylight saving time, it could lead to chaos, with a bunch of different states on a bunch of different times.” — Editorial, Los Angeles Times
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Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Getty Images