Day Light Savings

does daylight saving time need to be fixed?

The US government could do something useful with their time, but instead they're going to fix the problem with daylight saving time (DST) by passing the Sunshine Protection Act 2021 to make DST permanent. It will solve everybody's problems... Or will it?

Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse introduced the bill that will end the current practice of clocks going back one hour to Standard Time in the winter and make the current time regimen permanent.

Americans are tired of turning their clock back in the winter. But let's be honest, most people don't change their clocks (aside from those with clocks on their kitchen wall) your phone does that automatically. However, the impetus behind the bill is to extend sunshine in the winter months in the State of Florida because it would be better for Florida's tourism industry. It would also be good for the tax base of the entire State, but what about those living in the other 49 American States and would this be a good move for us the United Kingdom?

If DST is made permanent, sunrise would be after 8am which means that a massive portion of the morning commute to work and School would occur in the dark.

We can look to previous times when it was considered and experimented with. In the early 1970s US Congress made DST permanent and as a result there was an increase in the number of children killed while walking to school in the dark. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to ensure that all school signs were reflective. Memphis city spent money to put their children in reflective tape. Also, business owners had to use significantly more gas and electricity to heat up their workplaces due to the darker, colder mornings.

Some argued that school times could change depending on the season, but that is not how normal jobs work, therefore it would be difficult for parents.

It took nine months before Congress repealed the decision because people hated it so much. The regime of darkness in the morning was dangerous for children, it made people depressed to spend more time in the dark and businesses has to spend more money.

Russia also tried this in 2012 because initial polling showed that it was popular, but even Vladimir Putin had to reverse course aftering hearing the same concerns of those in Siberia and Northern Russia.

In 2019, the European parliament voted to scrap the practice, but they still have not been able to agree whether to remain on ‘permanent winter’ or ‘permanent summer.’

In the UK, due to Brexit, there is no requirement to follow European parliment decisions. However, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) stated more people are killed on the roads in the autumn and winter evenings due to DST and have recommended permanent British Summer Time (BST). Senior government officials have intimated that British summertime may be made permanent, but the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has publically stated that it is ‘unlikely’ to go ahead.

Britain first started using DST in 1916 with the introduction of British Summer Time (BST) to help people spend more time outdoors in daylight and to promote productivity in factories and on farms. Unbelievable as it is, a builder by the name of William Willett proposed DST after seeing too many closed windows and people indoors during a ride in the countryside.

There have been variations, for example, in England and Wales during WW2, there was a double summertime where clocks changed by two hours. Also, in the 1960's a trial without DST showed an 11% decrease in road traffic accidents.

Additionally, research has shown that there is a spike in the number of heart attacks when the clocks jump forward (loosing an hour). However, sleep scientist Matthew Walker suggested there is also a drop in the number of heart attacks when the clocks go back (gaining an hour), indicating an unrelated issue in society - that people need more sleep.

While the changing clocks does disrupt sleep in the short term, research by Stanford neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman and the National Institute of Health showed that seeing early sunrise is vital to setting your circadian clock and helping you get better and healthier sleep at night. Having less light in the morning and more exposure to light in the evening may just keep you awake for longer in the evening and disrupt your sleep cycle in the long-term.

Additional daylight in the morning during winter is better for you from a health perspective. It keeps children safe on their commute to school, it naturally sinks people's wake-up time to the sunrise, and it saves money. 

With evidence for and against DST, is the decision to scrap it something that should be decided depending on the country or State? Is it really more dangerous in the mornings or in the evenings? Are there actual health benefits to an early sunrise? The jury's out. You decide.

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Steven Sweeney BSc(Hons), MSc

'The Brink' comic creator, author, Web developer and musician with 5 albums.