Electric Time technician Dan LaMoore adjusts a clock hand on a 12-foot diameter clock built for a resort in Vietnam, March 9, in Medfield, Mass. Daylight saving time ended at 2 a.m. local time, Sunday, Nov. 7, when clocks were set back one hour. (Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

Electric Time technician Dan LaMoore adjusts a clock hand on a 12-foot diameter clock built for a resort in Vietnam, March 9, in Medfield, Mass. Daylight saving time ended at 2 a.m. local time, Sunday, Nov. 7, when clocks were set back one hour. (Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

Editorial: It’s past time we ended twice-yearly time shift

Sen. Patty Murray has renewed her call for Congress to permanently adopt daylight saving time.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Yesterday afternoon — whether you were at home or work — you likely looked out the window and thought: “Why is it getting dark at 4 in the afternoon?”

Those of us in the more northern latitudes are used to darker afternoons in the fall and winter; it’s the price we willingly pay for late-evening sunsets in the summer. What throws us is that sudden shift of an hour — which happened again Sunday morning — when we moved from daylight saving time, which began March 14, back to standard time, prompting the twice-yearly ritual of changing clocks — and testing fire alarm batteries — and the sudden onset of afternoon gloom.

Isn’t it time for a change? Permanently?

Yes, and 19 states, including Washington and six of its western neighbors, and their legislatures already have approved a permanent move to daylight saving time. But — like figuring out how to change the clock in a car — it’s Congress that’s defied the logic on allowing states to keep time as they see fit.

Until now, perhaps. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., again are renewing a bipartisan call for legislation introduced before March’s time change, the Sunshine Protection Act. The act would set daylight standard time as the new permanent standard, with a provision for states to choose to stick with the old standard time.

More than just the mild annoyance at changing clocks and cursing the darkness, there are a number of good reasons to switch to daylight saving time and never touch the clock again.

“To put it simply, Americans want more sunshine and less depression,” Murray said in a floor speech last week. “Beyond convenience, this is a matter of health and safety. Studies have shown our switch to standard time can increase rates of seasonal depression as well as heart problems and risk of stroke.”

The twice-yearly 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 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 mornings.

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 forward 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 work and vehicle accidents, injuries and health problems.

There are many problems with the switch, as well as benefits to making daylight saving time permanent, wrote University of Washington law professor Steve Calandrillo for The Conversation in 2019. Permanent DST, Calandrillo wrote, would save lives and energy, could discourage crime and help most of us get better sleep and maintain our health.

Lives: Calandrillo noted that evening rush hour — because there are more drivers on the road at the same time — is twice as fatal as the morning commute, and vehicle-pedestrian accidents increase threefold after the sun goes down. An extra hour of sunlight would mitigate those risks.

Crime: More sunlight in the afternoon and evening would likewise work to prevent crime. A 2013 British study found that more light in the evenings reduced the incidence of crime by 20 percent.

Energy: Most of us are awake later into the evening than are up and about before sunrise, so permanent DST would mean a decrease in the amount of electricity used.

Sleep: Stopping the twice-yearly time shift also would help us sleep better, allowing us to avoid having to adjust our sleep cycles and its effects on our health. Heart attacks increase 24 percent in the week after the U.S. “springs forward” each March.

Some parents have raised concerns that permanent daylight saving time would mean more darkness in the morning when kids are heading to school, especially in winter months. But those concerns are better addressed by pushing school start times to later in the morning, as some school districts already have. A study of Seattle schools in 2018 showed that its later start to the day — nearly an hour — showed improvements in attendance and academic performance.

Murray, perhaps in recognition of the full plate of work already ahead of Congress, is also pursuing a second track for permanent DST. Washington’s senior senator has asked the Biden administration to consider a federal waiver that — through the federal Department of Transportation — would allow those states that have adopted the DST laws to proceed with permanent daylight saving time.

The Biden administration should note the approval of permanent DST by 19 states and allow for that switch, or rather, the OK to stop making the switch. Doing so might be enough of a nudge to Congress to stop hitting the snooze button and take permanent and nationwide action that will end a useless exercise in changing clocks twice a year.

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