Love it or hate it, the majority of Americans spring forward and fall back every year when Daylight Saving Time hits. But could that change?
A congressional panel on Wednesday debated whether to end the policy, citing the health effects of shifting the clock twice per year.
Most lawmakers were in favor of ditching the time change, The Washington Post reported.
DST officially begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 13, when the time “springs forward” by one hour. It ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6, when we’ll “fall back” one hour.
We know it’s coming every year, but that doesn’t make springing forward any easier. Studies have indicated that losing that extra hour of sleep can raise the risk of everything from heart attacks to car accidents.
Two experts who testified before the panel both pointed to that notion while offering different solutions to the twice-a-year-time changes.
Steve Calandrillo, a law professor at the University of Washington, suggested the U.S. stay in permanent DST, saying more evening sunshine would save lives and energy, and prevent crime.
“Again and again, research has shown that sunlight is far more important to Americans’ health, efficiency and safety in the early evening than it is in the early morning,” he said in a statement. “‘Primetime’ is 8 p.m., not 5 a.m., for a reason – it is futile to ask us to ‘just wake up earlier’ to take advantage of the morning sun.”
Dr. Beth Malow, a sleep researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, testified that remaining in standard time year-round was the best option when it comes to the health of the American people.
“DST is like living in the wrong time zone for almost eight months out of the year. Our biological clocks are in one time zone while the clocks governing our school and work times are one time zone to the east,” Malow said in a statement. “Standard Time is the healthy choice because it maximizes light in the winter mornings, when we need it to wake up and become alert, and minimizes light in the summer evenings, when it can
work against our sleep.”
The panel also heard from Lyle Beckwith, with the National Association of Convenience Stores, who argued that the current time change policy — which he referred to as “daylight optimization time” — should stay in place because it’s good for business and commerce.
“When the clocks change in the spring, people feel as though they have more time after work,” Beckwith said in a statement. “The increases in economic activity that result can be dramatic. They consistently show increased spending when daylight hours are shifted later in the day
through daylight saving.”
The panel ended the hearing saying it would submit a request to the Department of Transportation to evaluate the effects of changing the clocks, The Post reported.
So, why do we observe DST in the first place? Daylight Saving Time was instituted in the U.S. during World War I in order to save energy for war production by taking advantage of the later hours of daylight between April and October, according to the Department of Energy. The passage of the Energy Policy Act in 2005 extended Daylight Saving Time by four weeks – from the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November.
WLNS reports it’s a myth that the time change was created to benefit farmers. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, agricultural groups are often among the most vocal critics of the time change, since it interferes with their schedules and work crews.
Lawmakers across the country have asserted over the years that DST and the accompanying time changes are outdated and unnecessary. Nineteen states have enacted legislation or passed regulations for permanent DST, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only two states, Hawaii and Arizona, do not participate in DST.