Mixed emotions! That's the phrase I'd use to describe our annual ritual of moving the clocks ahead one hour each spring; or now even earlier, since it's still technically winter. I'm happy to get the extra hour of daylight during my waking hours. I'm equally unhappy to lose an hour of sleep and show up for work on Monday an hour early. Sure, we all get used to it after a few days and eventually get back to our routine. But by now, we've heard the health warnings about the negative effects of switching to Daylight Savings Time -- more strokes, more heart attacks, more traffic accidents. These are small increases, but they still represent more people losing their lives than if we just left the clocks alone.
For a long time, we thought that we were saving energy. In fact, the United States first adopted Daylight Savings Time as a means to save energy during World War I. After the war, Americans dutifully changed their clocks back -- until 1942. By that time, the USA was fully engulfed in World War II. Again, Daylight Savings Time was implemented to save energy during the war. They actually called it "War Time." So we would have been living on Central War Time.
But it turns out, we're not saving energy at all. While we may be using lights for fewer minutes a day, we're also using more gas and more A/C.
So if we're not saving energy and we are endangering more lives, why are we still changing clocks twice each year?
The answer is a bit complicated, but in short, it's not easy to get everyone on the same page to get it done. Essentially, there are three ways we can end the time change cycle:
- The U.S. Congress can pass a bill. If it were to be signed into law by the President, we could move to year round Daylight Savings Time. Current law does not allow states to make their own decisions about moving their clocks ahead. But in Florida, they've already passed a law that would put the state on Daylight Savings Time 24/7/365 once the federal government allows that to happen. And for what it's worth, President Trump is on board.
- States can simply refuse to move the clocks ahead. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 does not allow states to be on Daylight Savings Time all year, but it does allow them to opt out of Daylight Savings Time altogether. Arizona and Hawaii are two states that have opted out. But most of us really like the extra hour of daylight in the evening, so opting out and remaining on Standard Time year round has not received a lot of discussion.
- A state could move into a new time zone and then simply opt out of Daylight Savings Time. Seems simple enough, right? Alabama moves to Eastern Time, and that's that. But while it doesn't require an act of Congress to move time zones, it does require approval from the Department of Transportation. To get approval, a time zone change would have to "serve the convenience of commerce." That is, it has to make sense from a business perspective. I can't see that happening unless the Florida panhandle is also moved to Eastern Time. As a general rule, TV markets (in this case, Mobile-Pensacola-Fort Walton Beach) are kept in the same time zone.
So those are the options, and different states have bills pending to try each of these methods. At National Geographic, they've run down which states are trying to do what -- some want to move time zones (mainly New England), others have bills to opt out and just stay on standard time (Texas among them); and then others are waiting on Congress to approve going to Daylight Savings Time permanently (Florida and the west coast states). But the big mistake would be to forget why the Uniform Time Act of 1966 exists in the first place. Before that law, states and local jurisdictions made their own decisions about whether to move their clocks ahead and when to move them. So one state could decide to change time in March and another in April. #chaos
It's probably best to get a federal law that continues to apply uniform, but more sensible standards, to how time is kept in this country. If it were my decision, though, this past weekend's move ahead would be the last time we change clocks ever again.
[Photo Credits: Library of Congress "Saving Daylight" postcard | Gettty Images clocks]