(March 17) The Senate’s unanimous passage of a bill to make Daylight Saving Time apply year-round is a well-meaning but awful solution to a very real problem. Informed by both history and science, the House of Representatives should either kill the bill or change it.

The better option is for everyone to live by standard time year-round — to have clocks dictated by the actual position of the sun for the entire year.

Most Americans this week probably struggled with sleep patterns and daytime sleepiness or confusion due to the annual “spring forward” of DST. Ordinary circadian rhythms get disrupted by sudden changes in daily routines, especially ones not accompanied by concomitant changes in actual sunlight. In industries involving heavy machinery or requiring particular alertness, circadian rhythm fatigue can be flat-out dangerous.

On the other hand, between the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, most people enjoy having daylight last longer into the evening hours, allowing time for activities such as evening cookouts before the fall of darkness. For lawmakers wanting to keep the summertime advantages of DST without incurring circadian rhythm fatigue, it seemed to make sense to end the practice of biennial clock adjustments and instead make DST permanent.

What seemed logical, though, isn’t logical after all.

The United States tried year-round DST once before, in 1974. Those of us old enough to remember it know it was a disaster. Children found themselves waiting in pitch darkness for morning school buses. The number of accidents involving children rose (although statistically not as much as anecdotal reports indicated). Dairy farmers found their early-morning milking even darker and more bitterly cold than usual. And indeed, as one agriculture-centered publication put it, “All in all, farmers would rather just use the sun and the seasons to determine milking times, planting charts, and the best time to harvest.”

Within three months of the 1974 experiment, a strong majority opposed it…. [The full column is at this link.]


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