It’s about time: Let’s ditch the Daylight Saving switch

If you went solely by social media posts from March and November, you’d conclude that Daylight Saving Time (DST) is massively unpopular. The twice-yearly clock adjustment is particularly irksome to parents of young children – they never get that promised extra hour of sleep in the fall – and anyone who starts their week by being an hour off for an appointment.

Of course, for most folks, DST elicits a shoulder shrug. They make the adjustment and move on. Suddenly “gaining” an hour of evening sunshine in the spring is like a revelation, and the bonus hour of sleep in the fall isn’t unpopular – for those who don’t have three-year-olds waking them up, anyway.

But a growing number of people are questioning what good DST really does. Is it worth the hassles? They lay out a compelling case.

  • DST doesn’t save energy. That’s a foundational attack, because DST’s original stated purpose was energy savings. When Indiana adopted DST statewide in 2006, it provided an opportunity for a natural experiment to study DST’s energy impact. Researchers found that DST actually increased energy use slightly, and posited that the effect was likely larger in other parts of the country.
  • Changing times causes health issues. Medical researchers have found slight upticks in heart attacks, strokes, and miscarriages. It’s also been found that those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder benefit more from evening light than early morning light.
  • Moving times creates a similar effect as jet lag. But instead of only hitting travelers, it affects everyone. There are more car accidents following time changes, and groggy workers are less productive.
  • DST is an extra complication for time-precise operations and international scheduling. No single jurisdiction can solve this problem, but the time switches – and knowing which areas make the change and when – are international headaches.

The solution to that last point, some think, is to get rid of time zones entirely and move to one common universal time. That seems pretty unlikely to happen. People want their local time to somewhat match their local environment. Noon and midnight still mean something.

The movement in Washington
Coalitions have been slowly forming around ditching DST. Like criminal justice reform and ending civil asset forfeiture abuse, it’s a too-rare instance of bipartisan cooperation.

Here in Washington, state Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside) is championing the idea. Honeyford’s original bill called for simply ending DST in the state (as Arizona and Hawaii already do). But many prefer more light in the evening rather than the early morning hours (if that describes you, you don’t hate DST, you love it).

After talking with an Oregon state senator interested in the issue, Honeyford changed his bill. It now calls for Washington, Oregon and California to petition Congress to switch the coastal states to Mountain Standard Time, “a move that would essentially keep daylight saving time year-round.”

This may not be the most important issue, but stopping time changes would end an annoyance and strike a blow against a policy that isn’t achieving its goals. It would also encourage more states to move in this direction and pressure Congress to adopt a more rational time policy.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.