By Harrison Nelson
May 2nd, 2022
On March 15, 2022 the U.S. Senate passed legislation that could end daylight saving time permanently in 2023. The news caught many off guard due to its timing, with most current media attention on the war in Ukraine. Though the decision to do away with the biannual time change has made many Americans happy, others are skeptical. Nevertheless, the next steps for the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 lie with the House of Representatives and then President Biden.
48 out of 50 states observe daylight saving time. According to a poll conducted by Monmouth University, just 35% of Americans support changing the clocks twice a year. This means the majority of Americans are in favor of having permanent daylight saving time, meaning people would no longer set their clocks forward in March. This new bill would potentially go into effect in 2023 and transition all states to standard time, or permanent DST.
The first use of DST is traced back to Europe in the early 20th century. The original purpose of setting clocks back was to conserve fuel and energy during World War I—the thought being the extension of sunlight into the evening hours limits the amount of time energy is needed to light a home. What is now known as daylight savings time was first used in the U.S. during WWII, and after the war ended, many states continued the practice because of the benefits.
Daylight saving time is mainly used to make mornings brighter. Now that living in suburban areas and commuting long distances to work is more common, the need to have sunlight on roadways early in the morning is crucial to keeping people safe on the road. The Department of Energy also states that the energy saved from DST can power 100,000 homes and 15,000 businesses for a year, though this statistic has been debated, and these claims that changing the clocks saves energy have little support.
One of the biggest critiques of daylight saving time is that Americans lose an hour of sleep when we “spring forward.” The change in time can disrupt one’s circadian rhythm. When clocks move forward, people gain an hour more of light right before bed, which can keep people awake because their bodies are used to the sun early in the morning and darkness around 5 or 6 p.m. This disruption can lead to a lack of sleep that may last after we spring forward.
Keeping daylight saving time permanently would reduce this drastic lighting change, allowing the body’s circadian rhythm to continue uninterrupted. Another advantage is that people do not need to remember to set their clocks forward or backward. Often, people will be late to work or events because they simply forgot to change their clock.
This is not the first time that a bill like the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 was passed by legislators. The first attempt to end time changes was in 1974. President Nixon signed the bill into law, but soon after, Americans changed their minds. The bill originally had a large amount of support, but when November came around and the clocks were not set back, many citizens woke up to a pitch-black morning sky. This made school and work commutes for children and adults particularly dangerous.
If the Sunshine Protection Act is passed, we will likely deal with the same problems that were experienced in 1974. Though headlights and safety equipment fitted to modern vehicles can help in the dark, it may not be enough to keep people safe.
While most Americans are excited about the potential change, those who remember the bill passed in 1974 may feel as though we are repeating the past. The Sunshine Protection Act still has to make it through the House of Representatives and the president before it becomes law. It may take a while for this bill to go through, but there is a chance Americans will not be changing their clocks in 2023.
Harrison Nelson is a fourth year undergraduate student with a major in professional and public writing and a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation. He has been playing guitar for twelve years and enjoys classic cars.