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Will Daylight Saving Time (DST) be permanent in 2023? Why are some states opting for permanent DST? Why do we still use DST?
We’ve once again “fallen back” to the shorter, darker days of winter. With the autumn time change being dreaded by many, some argue that we should eliminate this practice and stay in Daylight Saving Time year-round.
Read on to learn why we use Daylight Saving Time and if it will be permanent starting next year.
Should Daylight Saving Time Be Permanent?
The autumn return to standard time is dreaded by many, and some are calling for an end to the practice of setting our clocks back altogether. But this, too, would have downsides. So, will Daylight Saving Time be permanent by 2023 or should we continue to use the current system?
Earlier this year the Senate approved a bill that, if passed by the House, would keep the U.S. in Daylight Saving Time year-round. Recent surveys have shown that among Americans this move has widespread support across party lines. Democrats, Republicans, and independents all say they’d prefer permanent Daylight Saving Time over permanent standard time.
What difference would there be with making Daylight Saving Time permanent? In this article, we’ll explain why we have Daylight Saving Time in the first place, then explore some of the pros and cons of the current system compared to staying in a single time mode. Finally, we’ll discuss the legislation that could keep us in permanent Daylight Saving Time.
What Is Daylight Saving Time and Why Do We Do It?
Daylight Saving (not “savings” despite its common usage) Time refers to the practice of setting the clocks ahead in March, to give us an extra hour of evening daylight during the warmer part of the year. So, the U.S. is in Daylight Saving Time (DST) from March to November, and in standard time from November to March. Only two states, Arizona and Hawaii, don’t practice Daylight Saving and remain in standard time year round.
In the U.S., DST starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. Although the dates vary, this custom is currently practiced in most of North America, Central America, and Europe, as well as a handful of other countries in other parts of the world.
Daylight Saving Time was formerly called “war time” in the U.S. because it was implemented during World War I to save on energy costs. The practice was ended after the war, then enacted again during World War II. The idea was that in the warmer part of the year, with more evening light people would stay outside longer rather than being inside using energy-consuming appliances. It’s unclear whether it made a difference in energy consumption at the time, but more recent studies suggest it doesn’t have that effect today. And, in fact, studies have shown that DST actually increases gasoline consumption.
So, if it doesn’t accomplish what it was designed for, why are we still doing it? And if we end the practice of switching, will we stay in Daylight Saving Time permanently or standard time? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the possibilities.
What Are the Pros and Cons of the Current System?
Recent polls show that only about one in five Americans want to keep the time-change system the way it is. But, even if the current system doesn’t accomplish the energy-saving goals originally intended, it does accomplish a few things. It gives us extra evening light in the warmer months of the year, and extra morning light in the colder, darker months of the year. In the winter, the sun naturally rises later. If we didn’t set our clocks back in November, most Americans wouldn’t see the sun rise until around 8-8:30 a.m. in January. Some regions would be in the dark until 9 a.m. One of the major concerns of this is the safety of children walking to school or to bus stops in the dark. Additionally, many adults have a harder time waking and getting off to work in the dark.
So, the benefit of this system is that it allows for us to have the extended summer days we all love, while also providing more light for our morning routines in the winter. But there are also some distinct disadvantages to this system.
Health effects have been associated with both the spring and fall time changes. A study out of Denmark found an 11% increase in depressive episodes following the return to standard time in fall. This is likely due to the lack of light triggering seasonal depression. Also, a study of Michigan hospital records showed a 25% increase in heart attacks on the Monday after the time change in spring, but a corresponding decrease after the fall time change. Experts think this is because we lose an hour of sleep when we set clocks forward in spring, and gain an hour when we set them back each fall. The return to work on Monday after a poor night’s sleep could create extra stress on the body. We also see a rise in fatal traffic accidents just after the spring change, presumably also due to loss of sleep.
What Happens if We Stay in Daylight Saving Time?
If we were to stay in Daylight Saving Time permanently, that would mean no more turning the clocks back in November. This would mean we’d have winter sunsets around 6-7 p.m. and summer sunsets around 8-9 p.m., and we’d have those dark winter mornings. As mentioned above, this would mean adults and children heading out to work and school in the dark for a good portion of the year. In surveys, the majority of Americans express a preference for staying in this time mode year-round. They say it’s because Daylight Saving Time puts them in a better mood, they’re more productive in the evenings, and it saves on energy use.
What’s in Store for the Future?
Under federal law a state can opt out of Daylight Saving Time, as Arizona and Hawaii do. But states cannot opt to stay on DST year-round. At least 28 states have put forward legislation attempting to do so, but they can’t enact the practice without a change in federal law.
In March 2022 Florida Senator Marco Rubio introduced a bill called the Sunshine Protection Act that passed the U.S. Senate unanimously. If passed by the House, this act would make DST the permanent time mode nationwide, beginning in 2023. This means once we move the clocks forward to DST in March, the time wouldn’t change again. Opponents of the bill have pointed out that not all states would benefit equally, because the northern states and those on the western edges of time zones will have the latest sunrises, giving them the longest darkest mornings. So, Florida won’t have to deal with 9 a.m. sunrises, but Michigan will. For this reason, Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey notes that the disagreements in the House tend to vary not by political party, but by geography. These disagreements and other priorities mean the House may not vote on the bill until sometime next year.
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