Daylight saving time from spring to fall provides many advantages for most of the year.
One proposed alternative is year-round standard time. This would cut short 240 beautiful spring, summer and autumn evenings and eliminate eight months of daylight time’s benefits.
Spring-to-fall daylight saving time increases public health and the quality of life by getting people outdoors more, reduces crimes such as muggings, reduces energy use and minimizes energy peaks. And while daylight saving time may affect traffic accidents the first day or so after changing clocks, traffic accidents and fatalities are reduce significantly over the 240 days of daylight saving time.
Year-round standard time would make many spring and summer sunrises extremely early, while most people are asleep. New York, Chicago and Las Vegas would experience sunrises before 4:30 a.m. The sun would rise in Los Angeles, Washington and Cleveland before 5 a.m. We would sleep through morning sunshine for many months when that daylight could be better used later in the day.
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Our current system of daylight saving time relocates an hour of otherwise wasted sunshine to a much more useful hour at the end of the day.
Since 1966, when a federal law was passed, every one of the 50 states could choose year-round standard time at any time without any further federal approval. Yet now, after more than 50 years, only two states opt to do that. And those states have unique reasons: Hawaii is the closest state to the equator, and thus daylight hours vary little over the year, and daylight saving time's advantages are smaller. Arizona’s most populous areas have extreme summer heat, so instead of additional summer daylight, Arizonans await sunset to go outdoors.
The other major alternative to the current system is year-round daylight time. This isn’t a new idea — Americans have tried this option across the entire country and firmly rejected it.
During a 1974 national energy crisis, the federal government installed nationwide year-round daylight saving time for two years. But winter daylight saving time quickly lost support. People disliked traveling to work on very dark winter mornings. They especially detested sending their children to school on very dark mornings — waiting for buses on dark rural roads or walking on dark city streets. Congress followed the national sentiment and eliminated year-round daylight saving time after one year — though the law would have automatically expired the following year.
Already-late winter sunrises are one hour later under year-round daylight time — the sun would rise in New York, Denver and Chicago at about 8:30 a.m.. It would rise in Indianapolis, Detroit and Seattle at about 9 a.m., and in some U.S. areas at 9:30 a.m. or later.
Large numbers of people would travel to work or school in total darkness. And under winter daylight saving time, mornings are also colder — especially unpleasant in more frigid areas. Many would leave home before sunrise when it is coldest.
Year-round standard time and year-round daylight saving time would both eliminate clock changes. Many quickly adjust to the change, while others find it troublesome, with reports of short-term adverse effects. But the effects of changing the clock last just one or a few days, while summer daylight saving's benefits last 240 days and winter standard time’s benefits last 120 days.
Moving the clock forward one hour is like traveling one time zone to the east (from Chicago to New York, London to Paris, or Beijing to Tokyo), which many do worldwide daily. And many travelers cross multiple time zones.
Rather than changing our time system, other alternatives exist to minimize any negative effects from changing the clock. One option: Several days before a daylight saving time change, a campaign of public service announcements could remind people that the clock change is coming: Try to get more sleep and get to sleep a little earlier on the days near the clock change.
Instead of moving to either year-round standard time or year-round daylight time, each bringing many negatives, the current compromise is very sensible. Changing our clocks brings great advantages throughout the year, eliminates the problems that would be caused by either of the other two systems and results in the best of both.
Prerau is the author of “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.” He has been a consultant for the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.