Daylight Saving Time is an anachronism that should have gotten the heave-ho 70 years ago. Northwesterners understand that sunlight is an indulgence, a dissipating scourge that weakens resolve and elevates sin. Give us dishwater skies and, around midday, a square of filtered light.
Why Daylight Saving? Benjamin Franklin figured it would save on candles (he just might have been joking, Twain-like.) When DST finally was implemented during World War I, the mission was to boost the war effort by curtailing coal consumption. Less artificial light at night, more resources to fight Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Cooler heads prevailed after the war, and DST was ditched until the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the same thinking took hold. “War Time” continued through 1945. There was fiddling off and on, until the Uniform Time Act of 1966 which, other than the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, was the most notorious misstep of Lyndon Johnson’s career. Prior to the law, states could do what was in their best interest.
Do Northwesterners crave less morning light in March? We who ride out “June-uary” (and March-uary?) As Philip Larkin wrote in his poem, “Aubade:” Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare./In time the curtain-edges will grow light./Till then I see what’s really always there:/Unresting death, a whole day nearer now.
So, more time in the soundless dark to see unresting death. Or even, say, to experience it.
An article in the American Journal of Cardiology last week reports, “The transition to daylight savings time has been associated with a short-term increased incidence ratio of acute myocardial infarction.” The trend is reversed when Americans return to standard time in the fall. In 1996, The New England Journal of Medicine documented a spike in traffic accidents the Monday after DST kicks in because of sleep deprivation and darker mornings. Children at bus stops? The data are mixed, but danger increases immediately after the time switch.
During the Arab oil embargo of 1973, DST became a play thing, stretching to 10 months in 1974. Then more tinkering, including a 1986 adjustment shepherded by Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash, pushing the date back from April to March. One Gorton argument: More evening daylight spells fewer violent crimes (this was at the height of the crack epidemic.) Congressional fiddling in 2007 again set DST back another 3 weeks to early March.
Enough. DST saves energy (except in warmer climates such as Arizona and Florida), but is that a sufficient reason to preserve it? Here’s an opportunity for bipartisan leadership. Ending DST is a good way to start the morning.