It’s time for a change; or rather, it’s time to stop changing time twice a year.
We’re getting closer to ditching the anachronistic custom of changing clocks back and forth to switch to daylight saving time in late winter, standard time in the fall and back again the following year.
The state Senate late Tuesday voted to end the twice-yearly switch and stick with daylight saving time year round. The legislation earlier passed in the House, but was sent back to that chamber to get its concurrence on a small language change before it goes to the governor’s office. Gov. Jay Inslee has called himself “agnostic” on the issue, but the legislation’s overwhelming support in both chambers — 89-7 in the House and 46-2 in the Senate — should be enough to win the governor’s signature.
Add to that endorsement recent decisions to move similar legislation all along the West Coast to keep everybody in sync.
Nearly 60 percent of California voters in November voted for a ballot measure for year-round daylight saving time, and legislation is moving forward in its state assembly. Oregon’s Senate also has passed similar legislation that would become effective if Washington and California make the switch. That bill is now in the Oregon House. And British Columbia’s provincial assembly is considering the same.
Even the European Union is considering a permanent switch to daylight saving time.
The switch, which many 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 between March and November, switching back to standard time for more daylight earlier on winter days.
But in recent years it’s become clear that while it helped out department stores and other retailers — at least before the advent of online retail — the switch has proved less effective in saving energy. More importantly, turning the clocks back an hour from standard to daylight in late winter — often resulting in a loss of sleep for most people — is responsible for an increase in injuries and health problems.
Beyond the conclusion that the back-and-forth is a bad idea, recent research also has come down on the side of sticking with daylight saving time rather than standard time.
Among the benefits of staying with daylight saving time, according to a recent commentary in The Herald by Steve Calandrillo, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law:
The extra evening daylight would mitigate the added dangers of driving at night;
Crime would be discouraged, as most criminals are active in the evening rather than morning hours;
Energy actually could be saved as, again, more of us are active later in the evening than in early morning hours;
Most would enjoy better sleep, improving sleep cycles and avoiding the change that has been linked to more accidents on highways and workplaces and even an increase in heart attacks and other health problems; and
Recreation and commerce could also see a boost as more people could be out later at night with the additional light.
Parents have raised a concern with permanent daylight saving time: morning darkness, especially in winter months, as children make their way to school. In fact, it was the deaths of eight Florida children in traffic accidents on their way to school that ended a brief experiment with year-round daylight saving in 1974.
That concern is legitimate, but the solution there is a later start to the school day. A study late last year of Seattle schools showed that its later start to the day — by 55 minutes — showed improvements in attendance and academic performance.
The change to year-round daylight saving time needs more than the governor’s signature; it also has to be adopted by Congress. The Sunshine Protection Act has just a handful of supporters in the Senate and House, notably by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, but it’s backers are bipartisan and include Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.
With Inslee’s signature and similar adoption by California, Oregon and British Columbia, the move to stick with daylight saving time should spread throughout the rest of the United States, showing enough momentum for Congress to act and to end a custom that serves no purpose other than as a reminder to change the batteries in our smoke alarms.