As November sweeps in with its crisp, cool air and vibrant autumn hues, there’s one unmistakable change that affects us all: the end of Daylight Saving Time.
This yearly transition signifies more than just adjusting the clocks; it ushers in the season where darkness descends earlier each day.
The History of Daylight Saving
The concept of Daylight Saving Time can be most commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who first proposed the idea in a whimsical essay published in 1784. In this essay, titled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” Franklin suggested that adjusting the clocks to maximize daylight could save on candle usage. However, his idea was never put into practice during his lifetime.
Daylight Saving Time has its roots in train schedules, but it was put into practice in Europe and the United States to save fuel and power during World War I, according to the US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
The US kept Daylight Saving Time permanent during most of World War II. The idea was put in place to conserve fuel and keep things standard. As the war came to a close in 1945, Gallup asked respondents how we should tell time. Only 17% wanted to keep what was then called “War Time” all year.
During the energy crisis of the 1970s, we tried permanent Daylight-Saving Time again in the winter of 1973-1974. The idea again was to conserve fuel. It was a popular move at the time when President Richard Nixon signed the law in January 1974. But by the end of the month, Florida’s governor had called for the law’s repeal after eight schoolchildren were hit by cars in the dark. Schools across the country delayed start times until the sun came up. By summer, public approval had plummeted, and in early October Congress voted to switch back to standard time.
19 states have actually passed measures pledging to switch to permanent Daylight Time if Congress changes the rules to allow for such an action.
Those states are:
- South Carolina
As of Sept. 2023, 9 states were actively considering legislation that would also end Daylight Saving, but by switching the state to year-round standard time, according to the NCSL.
Those states are:
But these pieces of legislation are all marked ‘pending.‘
California voters also authorized a resolution in 2018, but lawmakers haven’t taken any action on the legislation.
Hawaii and most of Arizona (excluding the Navajo Nation) remain on Standard Time while the rest of the country makes the shift. It means that for much of the year, the time difference between New York and Phoenix is three hours — but from November to March, Phoenix residents are just two hours behind.
Other U.S. territories including American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands remain on Standard Time year-round.
“For most people, an extra hour of daylight in the evening after work or after school is much more usable than the hour of daylight in the morning.”
The Debate on Daylight saving
A raft of bills on the Federal and State levels are taking aim at the biannual time changes — and yet nothing is changing, at least for now.
In March 2022, the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act. The intent behind the bill was to make Daylight Saving Time permanent starting in spring of 2023.
The debate over the bill mainly concerns the effects on human health, traffic accidents, and whether it is better to have more sunlight in the morning or the evening.
Numerous polls have found that a very high number of Americans believe that a standard time should be fixed and permanent—as many as 75% favor no longer changing clocks twice per year—however there is no consensus on whether the desired fixed time should be daylight saving time or standard time. One of the most common arguments among researchers of varying backgrounds is that the change itself causes most of the negative effects, more so than either standard time or daylight saving time. Researchers have observed numerous ill effects of the annual transitions, including reduced worker productivity, increased heart attacks and strokes, increased medical errors, and increased traffic incidents.
Opponents of the Sunshine Protection Act argue permanent standard time would be more beneficial to health and human welfare. Numerous health specialists, safety experts, and research societies consider permanent Standard Time better for health, safety, schools, and the economy. This happens partly because Standard Time aligns with the natural circadian cycle, whereas Daylight Saving Time is an hour ahead. The closer harmony between Standard Time and biology contributes to safer morning commutes, improved student welfare, practicability of certain religious practices, increased exposure to healthy morning sunlight, and higher productivity and wages. However, advocates of permanent Daylight Saving Time argue it has its own benefits including decreased crime, less frequent traffic incidents, and decreased prevalence of seasonal depression. Research is unclear about which time setting conserves more energy.
Fun facts about Daylight Saving Time:
- William Willett (1856-1915), an early-rising Englishman, was the first to propose to the English parliament a type of Daylight Saving Time. Rather than setting the clocks an hour all at once, he suggested setting the clocks forward in 20-minute increments over 4 Sundays in April and back in 20-minute increments over 4 Sundays in September. His proposal was rejected.
- Contrary to common belief, farmers did not lobby for daylight saving time and even fought against it in 1919. However, they lost against urban retail outlets, such as fast food and tourist companies, who were in favor of the time change.
- Germany was not the first to implement daylight saving time. The first was Nova Scotia and Winnipeg in Canada on April 23, 1916, one week before Germany.
- Daylight saving was chosen to start at 2:00 a.m. because it is when the fewest trains were running, and it prevents the date from switching to yesterday. Additionally, 2:00 a.m. is before most shift workers leave for work, and it causes minimal disruption to bars, which close at 1:59 a.m.