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Editorial: Enough with springing forward and falling back

Washington and Oregon should adopt year-round daylight saving time, as California just did.

By The Herald Editorial Board

What if Sunday morning was the last time you ever had to change the clock on your kitchen stove?

Since 1966, when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, most Americans have undergone the twice-yearly chore of moving clocks ahead in the spring and back in the fall, including last Sunday when we again made the switch from daylight saving time to standard time.

The switch, which some countries have observed for more than 100 years — and which the U.S. has flip-flopped on for just as long — has long been seen as a way to save electrical power and give farmers, retailers and youth and professional sports teams more daylight later in the day.

But with mounting evidence that the switch back and forth twice a year isn’t saving much of anything, and may even have some health and safety drawbacks in the spring when we lose an hour, more states are considering legislation that would pick one time standard — daylight saving time — and stick with in year-round.

Tuesday, voters in California adopted Proposition 7 with nearly 60 percent approval, which would move to put the Golden State’s 39.5 million residents on daylight saving time for good. Assuming the measure passes, however, it’s only the first step. It’s own legislature would have to adopt the change with a two-thirds majority and Congress would have to change the Uniform Time Act to allow states to adopt year-round daylight saving time.

Currently, the federal law gives states two options: Follow most of the nation as it switches between the two time standards twice a year, or adopt standard time year-round, as Arizona and Hawaii and most U.S. territories, currently do.

If California’s legislature seeks permanent daylight saving, it would join Florida, which earlier passed its own “Sunshine Preservation Act.” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, responded by introducing legislation that would either make daylight saving time permanent across the nation or at least allow Florida — and presumably California and others wishing to do so — to adopt the daylight standard.

Legislation in other states already has been proposed in Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington, the Tri-City Herald reported this week.

State Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside — naturally — proposed legislation earlier this year to adopt year-round standard time. Honeyford, who kept his seat after Tuesday’s election, told the Tri-City Herald he plans to re-introduce the legislation next year, but would amend it to go with the daylight time standard to keep us in sync with California, as well as Oregon, if it joins in.

There’s reason enough to end the routine of springing forward and falling back.

As was noted in a commentary in Sunday’s Herald, shifting daylight to evening hours for seven months a year really isn’t saving much energy. In fact, energy use has increased during those months, studies have shown, and we’re also out and about burning more gasoline. There are better ways of saving energy than shifting our perception of daylight hours back and forth.

And many studies have shown the switch back to standard time in the spring results in a loss of sleep for most people, increased on-the-job accidents and car wrecks and an increase incidence of heart attacks in the days following the time change as our circadian rhythms adjust.

On the Monday following the switch to standard time, a study by the U.S. Department of Labor found a 68 percent increase in lost workdays, according to EHS Today, a journal of occupational health and safety. Those injuries weren’t offset by a decrease in lost workdays following the switch to daylight saving time.

They may be only minor advantages in choosing daylight saving time over standard time; not leaving work in the dark during much of the year would be one. But West Coast states should go with one standard, and California appears to have made its choice for daylight saving time.

Washington’s and Oregon’s lawmakers should now do the same and lobby Congress to allow that choice.

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