There’s no fixing the time-change crisis

This is the time of the year when Arizona is one of the smartest states in the nation.

Arizona doesn’t spring forward or fall back. It leaves its clocks alone.

So, it’s unlikely anyone in Arizona is dragging into work today because they were forced by a cockamamie idea to live life an hour earlier.

Now, that we’ve got Sunday liquor sales figured out, can we start working on this daylight saving time nonsense?

There’s no indication that daylight saving time does anything it was intended to do. Energy isn’t being saved and there’s no question that heart attacks and traffic accidents increase.

Some states are considering changing their clocks once and for all but none of them will, the New Yorker’s Alan Burdick writes today.

That’s because time is under federal, not state, jurisdiction. In the nineteenth century, cities set their clocks according to local solar time, and the American landscape was a temporal crazy quilt; in 1866, Illinois alone had more than two dozen distinct local times. In 1883, to simplify train schedules, the railroad companies established four time zones across the country, which Congress codified, in 1918, under the Standard Time Act.

The law also introduced the nation to daylight-saving time, which the Germans and British had implemented during the First World War. American farmers hated it, though, and it was struck from the law in 1919. (According to “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time,” by Michael Downing, the notion that farmers benefitted from daylight saving was a fiction promulgated by the Boston Chamber of Commerce, which championed the time change because added evening light encouraged evening shopping.)

For the next five decades, daylight saving was a free-for-all; cities, counties, and states could follow it on whatever schedule they liked, or not follow it at all. Time magazine, in 1963, described the situation as “a chaos of clocks.” Finally, in 1966, the Uniform Time Act introduced order: daylight saving would start for everyone on the last Sunday in April, and end on the last Sunday in October. In 1986, the start date was moved up to the first Sunday in April, and in 2005, with prodding from the barbecue, golf, and candy lobbies, D.S.T. was extended to its current span, which covers Halloween.

Individually, the states are stuck. The Uniform Time Act prohibits them from starting or stopping daylight saving on any dates other than the existing ones, which would also bar them from adopting it full-time. “I’ve seen this over and over, in state after state—somebody proposes a bill to stay on daylight saving, then somebody looks up the law and figures out that they can’t,” Yates said. The act does allow a state to exempt itself from daylight-saving time entirely; Arizona and Hawaii opted out from the get-go. But doing so effectively places those states in a different time zone for part of the year, disrupting the desired uniformity. The prevailing wisdom is that no state can act alone; either they band together and all switch at once or no one does.

In the northeast, some of the states want a regional solution, moving into the Atlantic Time Zone and staying there.

In its editorial today, the Bangor Daily News says that would “isolate” the states.

Of course, it would be nice to have the sun set later in the day during the long Maine winter. But tinkering with the clock won’t solve this problem. Essentially taking the sunlight from the morning and moving it later in the day — How long before people would start complaining about how dark it is in the morning if Maine did make the proposed time zone switch? — isn’t worth the negative consequences.

Last year, 19 states considered one-time-all-year bills. None passed. And not a single bill in Congress in the last two years has proposed fixing the twice-a-year nonsense we’re experiencing today.

  • Jerry

    I didn’t realise I was in the minority in loving daylight savings time.

    • It’s against the laws of nature that drive-in movies don’t start until 10 pm in the summer.

      • Jerry

        I’m not sure having the sun come up at 4 is making the best use of daylight.

        • The sun never comes up at 4 in MN.

          • Jeff C.

            Right. 5:25am is the earliest in St. Paul. 5:10am is the earliest for International Falls.

      • Kassie

        On weekends, we usually eat dinner between 9-10, so a movie starting at 10 is great for us.

      • Rob

        What is a drive-in movie?

        • wjc


    • rallysocks

      I only like the Fall Back part of it…but, I will admit that it’s fun to watch my sister obsessively get all her digital clocks to sync twice a year.

  • Anna

    What do Congress and state legislatures think would happen if they just decided to keep the clocks on the same time as in Standard Time?

    If Arizona can do it, what’s wrong with Minnesota? We’re right in the middle of the country. Maybe if we took the plunge, the rest of our neighboring states would follow us into time sanity.

    For those of us who have to get to bed early because of a work day that starts at 7 a.m. as in nurses, teachers, shift workers, it is nearly impossible to go to sleep when it’s broad daylight outside at 8 p.m. or we have to make our bedrooms into caves in order to get it dark enough to fall asleep.

    All creatures have circadian rhythms that correspond with the rising and setting of the sun and the change of the seasons. What is wrong with working with nature rather than against it?

    I always thought farmers LOVED daylight savings time because it helped them with the harvest. Obviously, I was misinformed.

    Part of the fun of Halloween was trick or treating after dark. It was a liberating experience as when I was growing up, we had to be home before dark and there were consequences when you weren’t.

    Where’s the fun in walking up and down the street in a carefully planned costume if darkness doesn’t make it harder to guess who you are? The cloak of darkness made it more of a challenge.

    I’m with you, Bob.

    Daylight Savings Time sucks.

    • Jerry

      Depends on the farmer I imagine.

      • Zachary

        when your modern combine harvester has more lights than Target field, and a GPS system that drives itself, I don’t think daylight matters anymore.

        • Kassie

          I don’t think daylight ever mattered. Changing the start time the daylight is outside doesn’t change the number of hours of daylight. It isn’t like farmers live by a 9-5 farming schedule. The only reason it would matter is when the farmer has to hold down a 9-5 job on top of the farming duties, I suppose.

  • Will

    Amazing how we bend over backwards for the small period of time that some kids might have to wait for a bus outside in the dark. Maybe later school starts is a better solution rather than changing the entire time system twice a year. Also, our actual time zone should just stay as it is now where we get more daylight in the evening.

    • emersonpie

      In rural areas, kids are standing near the ends of their driveways by roads where the speed limit is 55 mph. I agree the best solution is for schools to start later.

  • Zachary

    I think next election cycle, I’ll run for governor on the single issue of dragging DST out back, and putting it out of its misery. I may get a couple of pity votes…

  • Carolie

    let’s just move the clocks back half an hour and keep them there. Then both sides get a little bit more of what they want. Compromise can work!

  • Rob

    Bob C., are you suggesting that states follow Sir Dyk’s lead, and break the law? : )

  • Rob

    I don’t care what we decide to call it, but any time construct whereby it’s light longer in the evening is OK by me. There’s nothing worse than winter days when it’s dark at 4:00 in the afternoon; no wonder there’s a widespread urge to binge on carbos and then hibernate for the duration.

  • John

    Ho Hum. . Back to driving to work in the dark for a couple months.

    As an early riser, I much prefer the sun to come up early, and could care less if it sets early at night.

  • seedhub

    Energy isn’t being saved and there’s no question that heart attacks and traffic accidents increase.

    While it’s true that there is no clear energy savings, the spike in traffic accidents is more than offset by a significant decrease in accidents during the balance of DST. And if your heart is fragile enough that setting your clock forward is enough to trigger a heart attack, DST is not really the issue.

    • X.A. Smith

      It’s a statistical increase in heart attack across the population. It is correlated to DST. It really is the issue.

      • seedhub

        And would those heart attacks simply not occur in the absence of DST? I haven’t seen that evidence, especially considering there’s a (nearly) commensurate drop in heart attacks in the fall, when folks get an extra hour of sleep.

    • What about if you have epilepsy? It’s a disruption of sleep that’s the issue. that’s linked to innumerable health issues as well as educational issues. Just leave the clocks alone.

      • seedhub

        On the whole, I don’t have any compelling reasons to defend DST; I’m just pointing out that heart attacks (in the absence of evidence that DST actually increases the number of heart attacks) and traffic accidents (which actually decrease due to DST) don’t appear to be valid concerns.

  • Jeff C.

    From the Boston Globe, my favorite reason to stop changing the clocks: “It turns out that judges, sleep deprived by daylight saving, impose harsher sentences.”

  • Dan

    There was a proposal making the rounds a couple years back to change the contiguous US to two time zones, Eastern and Western (with no DST). I liked it because Minnesota would move to CDT and stay there – I prefer the later sunrises and sunsets. Eastern states would just stay in EST. I’m not sure how super-applicable this example is, but we’re often doing the same things at the same actual time, just calling it a different time, like with the 11 o’clock news on the east coast vs 10 o’clock here.

  • Mike Worcester

    I don’t think anybody has posted this link already so here it goes — I’m a fan of the idea of creating essentially one global time. When it’s 2100 in London it’s 2100 in New York, and so on. You can still sleep when you want and such, but none of this “what time is that there/here”.

    But I suppose it’s too crazy of an idea to gain traction. Either way, it’s interesting to think about.

    • Already exists. Zulu time. The entire aviation system runs on it.

      • Mike Worcester

        And how do we get the rest of the globe to follow suit? Using that or GMT or Coordinated Universal Time or whichever works best?

  • rosswilliams

    I remember when Saint Paul and Minneapolis started DST at different times. Each of the suburbs had to decide which city to go along with. I think one of the newspapers published a map so you would know what time it was.

  • lindblomeagles

    Business owners, particularly in the seasonal recreational industries, often fight vigorously to maintain daylight savings’ time. The extra hour of sunlight means those of us who would normally shut it down at 8, will continue to consume something past 8 into the 9′ o clock hour. I agree with you Bob. I think this is rather stupid to add an extra hour. More to the point, I’m not sure it is all that healthy to encourage individuals to rest less when all the health experts say adults need about 8 hours of sleep everyday. But, I’m in the minority, so I guess I will have to buy some blackout curtains and shut it down at 8 by myself.