Just in time, here’s an issue on which the majority of Americans agree: For the love of circadian rhythms, stop fooling with the clocks twice a year. Please.
Yesterday we “fell back” to standard time, and in March we will again “spring forward” to daylight saving time. It’s high time we pick one, and stick with it; make it permanent. Here in Washington, where it is indeed very dark during the winter, many people think staying with the daylight saving hours would be best, allowing for the most light possible in the afternoons.
Steve Calandrillo, a University of Washington professor, is a big advocate for keeping daylight saving time year-round. A lot of research has been done on the subject, and Calandrillo, in an opinion piece in The New York Times, argues that staying with daylight saving time would save lives, reduce crime and keep Americans from losing sleep every time we switch the time.
Studies show that traffic accidents increase when we switch the clocks, whether it’s fall or spring (more happen with the spring change, however. Along with more heart attacks.) Changing sleep cycles negatively effects health, coordination and alertness. Fatal pedestrian accidents also increase after the fall change.
Calandrillo writes, “Delaying sunset by an hour would save over 350 American lives annually, by reducing traffic fatalities during the evening. The change from daylight to twilight causes a 300 percent increase in fatal vehicle-pedestrian crashes, and the evening rush hour produces twice as many accidents as morning (nearly everyone is awake and moving about in early evening; whereas many are still asleep at sunrise).”
Keeping with daylight saving time also reduces crime, Calandrillo argues. Many crimes — such as robbery, assault, motor vehicle theft and juvenile crime — peak during the early evening hours when the sun sets, while the corresponding rates are low in the morning.
Daylight saving time also saves energy by reducing the use of fossil fuels and electricity during the evening peak load, which outweighs the small increase in the early morning load caused by daylight saving time. This is the main reason the U.S. adopted year-round daylight saving time during World War II and the 1970s oil crisis, Calandrillo writes.
Researchers in Denmark have found that making the annual change to standard time can increase the risk of depression, especially for those who are prone to it in the first place. Dr. Norman Rosenthal, who first described and diagnosed what is known as “seasonal affective disorder” was not surprised by the findings, CNN reported. Gaining an hour of light in the morning (when people are usually still indoors) doesn’t offset the loss of an hour of light in the afternoon, Rosenthal said.
If Congress would like to please a majority of Americans in January, and do something to benefit them, and the country, it will resolve this biannual disruption and debate.